A quick glance at Wikipedia or this ILGA report is enough to tell you that there are a LOT of countries where it’s dangerous or deadly to be (or even to be perceived as) lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
There are still more than 80 countries with sodomy laws, and punishment can include flogging, imprisonment, and in about a dozen jurisdictions, the death penalty. Those suspected of being LGBT are also routinely the victims of harassment, discrimination and violence. Many of those who speak up for LGBT rights – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – are themselves persecuted with impunity.
Here are 7 countries Amnesty International has recently had particular concerns about:
NIGERIA: On November 29th, Nigeria’s senate passed a bill that would place people at risk of criminal sanctions, including human rights defenders and anyone – friends, families and colleagues – who stands up for the rights of LGBT people in Nigeria. Individuals could face imprisonment based on nothing more than their actual or assumed sexual orientation or gender identity, or stemming from allegations about their relationship status or consensual sexual conduct.
CAMEROON: In Cameroon, homosexuality is criminalized under Section 347a of the Cameroonian Penal Code. Jean-Claude Roger Mbede was sentenced to 3 years in prison on charges of “homosexuality” and is currently serving his sentence in a prison where he is at risk of homophobic attacks, as well as ill-treatment by fellow inmates or prison authorities. In addition, the prison conditions are harsh, with inmates suffering overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate food. You can take action on his case and others by signing up to Write for Rights this December 3-11.
UGANDA: The parliament in Uganda recently reintroduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which if enacted would be one of the most severe violations of LGBT human rights. The bill proposes a 3-year sentence for anyone failing to report homosexuals; a life sentence for anyone participating in “homosexual activity;” and the death sentence for “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill also imposes a 7-year sentence for providing assistance or protection to LGBT individuals, making the work of human rights activists and public health professionals extremely dangerous.
RUSSIA: Russia recently debated a draconian anti-gay bill which effectively bans public events by LGBT people and organizations under the pretext of protecting minors. If enacted, the law would allow authorities to impose fines of up to the equivalent of US$1,600 for “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.” Under the measure, freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT groups would be prohibited anywhere children might be present. This would rule out nearly all public events carried out by or on behalf of LGBT people and organizations.
HONDURAS: Although same-sex sexual activity is not technically illegal in Honduras, Amnesty International is concerned about the environment faced by activists and other members of the LGBT community there. Attacks are rarely investigated thoroughly, and there is not enough protection for those who come forward to report these crimes. This year, one LGBT activist and human rights defender, Alexander David Sánchez Álvarez, was threatened at gunpoint at least three times. In another case, in December 2009, the LGBT human rights activist Walter Trochez was murdered in Tegucigalpa. Additionally, its 2010 report on Honduras, Amnesty International highlighted the sharp rise in the number of killings of transgender women following the June 2009 coup.
MEXICO: Mexico may be in the news a lot more for drug-related violence, but that certainly doesn’t mean that LGBT people are safe. Last December, police officers in the southern Mexican city of Mérida detained and tortured lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights activist José Ricardo Maldonado Arroyo in an attempt to extract information from him. They arbitrarily arrested him for around four hours and threatened him with reprisals if he spoke about the incident.
SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia has sentenced people convicted of homosexuality and “sodomy” to a range of penalties including corporal punishment and even the death penalty. In November 2010, a 27-year-old Saudi Arabian man was sentenced to 500 lashes and five years’ imprisonment for the criminal offense of homosexuality, among other charges, and was reported in the press to have been convicted of the additional offenses of imitating women and possessing pornographic videos. He was already serving one year’s imprisonment after being convicted earlier that year on a separate charge of homosexuality, among other offenses. Flogging, a severe violation of human rights, is mandatory in Saudi Arabia for a number of offenses and can also be used at the discretion of judges as an alternative or in addition to other punishments.
To learn more about Amnesty International’s work on LGBT rights, check out our Human Rights Don’t Discriminate page.
Sign up to Write for Rights to take action against LGBT discrimination in Cameroon, and to help others at risk around the world.