A year after India’s historic decision to legalize same-sex love, LGBTQ relationships still a crime in a third of the world
A year after India’s highest court ruled that same-sex relationships were not a crime, nearly a third of the world still criminalizes LGBTQ sex, activists say.
When the world’s most populated democracy struck down a colonial-era law on Sept. 6, 2018 that made gay sex illegal, LGBTQ activists across the globe celebrated the incredible moment of hope for human rights.
A 500-page document outlining the court’s decision stated that Section 377 of the penal code, which outlawed gay sex, was unconstitutional.
The historic decision reverberated across the world, hinting at a wave of social progress what would likely spread throughout neighboring countries and beyond. To many, it felt like just a matter of time.
But today, as India gets ready to celebrate its first year of the same-sex decriminalization, activists worry that the progress didn’t expand as much as it was expected.
“Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which made sexual behavior ‘against the order of nature’ illegal and punishable by imprisonment, served as a model for similar laws across the British Colonial Empire. As such, its fall marked a significant step forward in the recognition and promotion of the human rights of LGBTIQ people not only in India, but around the world,” Maria Sjödin, the deputy director of OutRight Action International, said in a statement shared with the Daily News.
India’s decision did cause a positive effect in some countries, such as Angola, Botswana and Bhutan, which followed suit.
Legal challenges have also been enacted in Singapore, and across the the Caribbean, where over half of the countries still criminalize same-sex relations, according to OutRight.
"Gross indecency" laws are being challenged in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and in Dominica; a petition filed last year with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights challenging the “buggery” laws of Barbados has also moved forward.
However, in 68 countries across the world, consensual same-sex relationships remains a crime. In some of them, it can even be punishable by death.
Shockingly, some countries, such as Egypt and Indonesia, are going against the current of social progress: they are now taking steps to introduce legislation to ban same-sex relationships, when they didn’t have any in the past.
“It is shocking that long outdated, predominantly colonial-era laws criminalizing same-sex relations still exist in a third of the countries in the world,” said Sjödin. “The prevalence of these laws, and the move towards criminalization of consensual same-sex acts in countries which have never had such bans in the past, is a frightening reminder of the continuing perception of LGBTIQ people as immoral, unnatural and even threatening to societies.”
On the eve of the anniversary of India’s landmark decision, Sjödin hopes that the sobering statistics and the lackluster progress might work as a “call to action” to people around the world.
“Inequality, stigmatization, harassment of LGBTIQ people does not only affect LGBTIQ communities — it affects every single one of us who somehow does not fit the arbitrarily assigned perceptions of what constitutes the norm,” she added.