Africa / Asia / Europe / Middle East / North Africa

Recount: 75 (or 79) nations where homosexuality is illegal

This blog's map of 79 countries with laws against sexual relations between people of the same sex, four more than are on the ILGA list. (See the article for an explanation why.)

This blog’s map of 79 countries with laws against sexual relations between people of the same sex, four more than are on the ILGA list. (See the article for an explanation why.)

The number of countries with anti-homosexuality laws is currently 75, according to the latest tally from ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. That’s down one from earlier this month, when the African nation of Chad was incorrectly included in the list.

This blog now lists a total of 79, including four political entities that ILGA excludes. Those four are  Palestine/Gaza, Daesh/ISIS/ISIL, and the Cook Islands, which are not member countries at the United Nations, and Indonesia, where two large states have anti-homosexuality laws although the nation as a whole does not.

Chad was briefly added to both lists — by mistake — because of a proposed new Penal Code that would provide for 15 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (US $86 to $860) “for anyone who has sex with persons of the same sex.”  Chad has been removed from the lists after ILGA realized that the proposed change had only been approved by Chad’s cabinet, but not by the president.

Cover of ILGA's 2015 edition of its report on State-Sponsored Homophobia. (Click the image for a link to the report)

Cover of ILGA’s 2015 edition of its report on State-Sponsored Homophobia. (Click the image for a link to the report)

The latest tally is a remarkable change from 2006, when the ILGA report listed 92 countries with laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting same-sex adults. In a corrected version of  10th annual State-Sponsored Homophobia report, ILGA will  now cites only 75 such countries.

As reported in this blog’s article on the new edition of the State-Sponsored Homophobia report on May 13, “10 years later, tally of 92 anti-LGBT nations drops to 76“:

“The situation is still unacceptable: more than one-third of the world’s States consider same-sex sexual activity illegal,” say the 2015 report’s authors, Aengus Carroll and Lucas Paoli Itaborahy. “On the other hand, although 2013 saw an alarming rise in the number of States considering a new wave of criminalisation through ‘homosexual propaganda’ laws, in fact only a small number actually implemented them.”

That quotation and the rest of this blog post come from the May 13 article, updated with a few revised statistics.

Beyond the issue of national laws, Carroll and Itaborahy said, “we find many brave individuals, organisations operating on shoestring budgets, networks of activists, scholars, policy-makers and other professionals, risking their livelihood (and often their lives) to fight for what is right. We find lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people manoeuvring through political, social, religious, cultural and linguistic battles to be recognised and respected. These are efforts, initiatives and actions that empower us.”

They took note of these changes to their list:

  • Mozambique and Palau were dropped from the list because they decriminalized same-sex acts in 2014.
  • IDAHOT marchers in Lesotho on May 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Matrix Support Group / The Hub)

    LGBTI pride marchers in Lesotho on May 17, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Matrix Support Group / The Hub)

    Lesotho also was dropped from the list after adopting a new Penal Code, which took effect in 2012. Apparently Lesotho’s former common-law crime of sodomy was eliminated by that Penal Code, which has no anti-sodomy provision.

  • The Central African Republic was removed from the list on the basis that it was mistakenly added last year because of a misunderstanding of a law prohibiting same-sex intercourse in public.
  • Iraq was added to the list. “While not officially codified [in Iraq], the
    death sentence is implemented widely [for same-sex relations there],” the ILGA report states. The report adds:
Iraqi checkpoint, a place where gay men say they are in danger. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

Iraqi checkpoint, a place where gay men say they are in danger. (Photo courtesy of BBC)

“After the American invasion in 2003 the Penal Code of 1969 was reinstated in Iraq. This code does not prohibit same-sex relations. However, non-state actors in Iraq, including Sharia judges, continue to order executions of men and women for same-sex sexual behaviour, despite the fact that Iraq’s civil code makes no reference to same-sex sexual behaviour, does not criminalise it, and neither does the country’s (civil law) legal system defer to the sharia court. It is also known that both police and militias have frequently kidnapped, threatened and killed LGBT people.”

The ILGA list is essentially the same as this blog’s list of 79 countries where homosexuality is illegal. The key differences are that the blog’s list includes Indonesia, on the basis of two large Indonesian states’ anti-LGBT laws, and three political entities, including Gaza/Palestine, that have anti-LGBT laws but have not received widespread international recognition as independent countries.

The authors of the ILGA report also noted:

  • In 118 countries (UN members), same-sex sexual acts between adults in private are legal.
  • In 8 nations, the law provides for the death penalty for same-sex relations, “but only five (Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) actually implement it … [and in Iraq, with no civil law against same-sex relations] judges and militias throughout the country … issue the death sentence for same-sex sexual behaviours. Further, some provinces in Nigeria and Somalia officially implement the death penalty. We are also aware that in the Daesh(ISIS/ISIL)-held areas the death penalty is implemented.”
  • The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah

    The Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah

    “Brunei Darussalam is due to activate the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts in 2016, but it seems likely that like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar although it is on the statute, it will not be implemented.”

  • “Regarding the recent legal practice, emerging from Russian provinces first in 2006, to criminalise the ‘propaganda of homosexuality,’ it is with some relief that we note that in fact to date only four countries actually appear to have adopted this on their statute books: Algeria, Lithuania, Nigeria and Russia.
  • “Discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation is now prohibited in 63 countries, including Chile (2012), Samoa (2013), Namibia (2004) and city of Buenos Aires in Argentina (2015).”
  • “A total of 8 countries have a constitutional prohibition to discrimination based on sexual orientation, including Mexico (2011) and Virgin Islands (2007) – associate of the United Kingdom.”
  • “Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are considered an aggravating circumstance in 34 countries. Laws in this respect have been identified in several European countries, including Andorra (2005), parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2013), Iceland (2004), Kosovo (2013), Lithuania (2009), Montenegro (2010), Norway (1994), Serbia (2012), Slovakia (2013), Slovenia (2008).”
  • “Incitement of hatred based on sexual orientation is prohibited in 31 countries. Austria has introduced such law in 2011, Hungary in 2013, Montenegro in 2010 and Switzerland in 2015.”
  • “Marriage is open for same-sex couples in 17 countries, including in Luxembourg …  in 2015. The state of Coahuila in Mexico and 19 further states in the United States of America have passed same-sex marriage laws in 2014, bringing the total number of states legislating for marriage equality to 37 (plus the District of Columbia). Finland approved a marriage equality law in 2015 that will come into force in 2017.”
  • “Joint adoption by same-sex couples is legal in 19 countries. It was legalised in Luxemburg and Malta in 2014, and in Austria , Ireland and Slovenia in 2015.”

This article was revised on March 25, 2015, to remove Slovenia from the list of countries recognizing same-sex marriage.  The Slovenian parliament approved that law, but it is currently being appealed to the Constitutional Court.


6 thoughts on “Recount: 75 (or 79) nations where homosexuality is illegal

  1. Mauritania hasn’t made use of capital punishment for ca. 30 years; and no one has ever been executed for having gay sex.
    Slovenia is still far from having marriage and adoption. The constitutional court has to give a judgement, there might be a referendum, the president has to sign the bill
    Austria is still far from having adoption. It’s adoption laws were declared unconstitutional, but government/parliament have not yet done anything for the laws to be changed.


    • Dear Pierre,

      Thank you for your comments about the situation in those three countries. I’ve forwarded them to Aengus Carroll, one of the authors of the ILGA report, who is preparing a corrected version of the State-Sponsored Homophobia document.

      Regarding Mauritania, what you say may be true about the use of capital punishment. I have little evidence one way or the other. Reliable, accessible news coverage of many of the 79 countries is sparse, especially in those with the death penalty on the books for homosexual activity. The anti-death-penalty website Hands Off Cain states that 52 people are on death row in Mauritania and no one has been executed there since 1987. If you can provide more information about executions for same-sex intimacy in Mauritania (or elsewhere), I would appreciate it.

      On the issues of same-sex marriage and adoption (Slovenia and Austria), I will correct the references in this article after ILGA clarifies the situation. I won’t devote much time to investigating them independently, since those issues are beyond the scope of this blog.

      However, I removed Slovenia from this article’s quotation about countries recognizing same-sex marriage, pending clarification of the status of the court appeal that you cite.

      Regarding Austria, I await further clarification.

      Thanks again,
      Colin Stewart, editor/publisher of this blog


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