July 31, 2017 3:27 pm
Updated: August 2, 2017 8:46 am

72 countries still criminalize LGBT relationships: report

Same-sex marriage may be legal in Canada, but in some countries, even identifying as a member of the LGBT community can lead to death, a report finds.

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Pride celebrations may have just wrapped across Canada, but for several countries around the world, being openly homosexual is considered a crime.

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According to an annual report published in May by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 72 countries worldwide classify homosexuality as a crime, and in eight of them, homosexuality can lead to a death penalty ruling, The Guardian reports.

“Seventy-two states still criminalize same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults: in 45 of these states the law is applied to women as well. ILGA knows of recent arrests under these laws in 45 states,” the report notes.

Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, two provinces in Somalia and Nigeria, and some parts of Iraq and northern Syria uphold the death penalty for homosexuals.

“In other two countries (Daesh-held territories in northern Iraq and northern Syria) it is implemented by local courts, vigilantes or non-state actors,” the report states.

Aengus Carroll, co-author of the report, says the research also focuses on countries with progress and protection.

“It reports on protections where we have national human rights institutions pushing for human rights denied on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” he tells Global News via e-mail.

The report also notes in 124 countries, same-sex sexual acts between consenting adults are legal.

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Biggest takeaways

Carroll says countries that criminalize homosexuality fall into different categories. There are those who follow previously established colonial laws, those that are seeking to establish new legal vehicles (countries like Russia and Nigeria, for example), and those who draw from religious practices to enforce a ban.

“Activists in different states have very different battles to undergo. In some cases, ensuring media is sensitive is the best tactic, particularly if parliaments are packed with people who oppose sexual or gender diversity being protected under law,” he says. “It’s important not to think that solutions to deeply held taboos can lift overnight — there are long social and political processes to undergo before people can move from moral disdain to the fundamental principle of upholding  human rights.”

Changes in Canada

The report also profiled progressive countries and their history of protecting LGBT communities. Canada, for example, was the first North American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005. And in 2016, Toronto police issued a “long overdue” apology for the 1981 gay bathhouse raids, which resulted in the arrest of almost 300 men.

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“Of all the countries in the world, Canada may be one of the most progressive in terms of social reception of ‘difference,’ despite the conservative decade you underwent,” Carroll says.

However, there is still work to be done. According to a 2015 report from Statistics Canada, although there has been a decrease in the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, those that were reported to police were more likely to be violent compared to hate crimes targeting other groups.

The CBC reports that between 2010 and 2015, 82 per cent of victims of these hate crimes were male, and 45 per cent were under the age of 25. More than half of the people accused of perpetrating the crimes were also males under 25.

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What all Canadians can do

The best thing we can do is be aware of situations abroad, as well as what’s happening within our own communities, Carroll suggests. Canadians interested in volunteering time or making donations can check out this list of LGBTQ organizations across the country.

READ MORE: UN appoints first expert on LGBT violence and discrimination

“Be sensitive to the diversity of identities and expressions of sexuality and gender around the globe,” Carroll adds. “Many come to Canada to seek protection.”


© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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