LGBTI rights make gains despite hate

Nearly 80 countries still have a total prohibition on same-sex relations. More than half of them are members of the Commonwealth and their homophobic laws were imposed by Britain in the 19th century, during the era of colonialism, and retained after independence.

The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago, and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana stipulate life imprisonment.

There have also been new laws enacted in some countries, most excessively in Nigeria, which has outlawed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) organisations, fundraising and public advocacy – and even gay-focused HIV prevention – as well as LGBTI-themed books and movies.

In these backlash countries, LGBTI people are increasingly demonised and scapegoated by demagogic politicians and fundamentalist clerics as a cheap way to win popular support.

At the start of 2016, a spokesperson for Malawi’s opposition party, Ken Msonda, sought to bolster his profile and reputation by saying: “The best way to deal with this problem [LGBTI people] is to kill them!”


Churches in Nigeria and Uganda have contributed to the witch-hunting atmosphere by supporting draconian laws. For governments, having an “enemy within” conveniently distracts public attention from economic failings and corruption.

Hate rhetoric is fuelling homophobic mob violence – sometimes perpetrated by right-wing death squads – especially in Honduras, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and El Salvador.

A disproportionately high number of victims of anti-LGBTI violence are trans people. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project says more than 1?300 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered in Latin America between 2008 and 2014.

Indian and Singaporean courts have upheld the criminalisation of same-sex relations, and Burundi has outlawed homosexuality for the first time in its history.

Despite this bleak picture, in the overwhelming majority of the world’s 193 countries, the trend is towards ever-greater LGBTI acceptance and equality.

Decriminalisation has taken place recently in Palau, São Tomé and Príncipe, northern Cyprus and Mozambique, and Vietnam lifted the ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

Both the United Nation’s human rights council and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights passed resolutions in 2014 calling on all countries to protect their LGBTI communities from discrimination and violence.

The backlash is a blip in the overall worldwide trajectory towards LGBTI equality. It is a reaction to the positive gains won by brave, determined LGBTI human rights defenders, many of whom risk their liberty and lives. If we were not winning there would be no need for the backlash. Take it as a backhanded compliment. – © Guardian News & Media 2016

Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Peter Tatchell
Peter Tatchell works from London. For human rights, democracy, global justice & LGBTI freedom. Views are my own & may not reflect those of the Peter Tatchell Foundation. [email protected] Peter Tatchell has over 88719 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How smuggled gold destined for Dubai or Singapore has links...

Three Malagasy citizens were apprehended at OR Tambo International airport, but now the trail is found to connect to France and Mali

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

More top stories

R2.3bn VBS trial expected to only begin in 2022

The state is expected to request a 16 week-long trial, as delays stymie progress in the saga.

Spy boss tells how agency was used to detain Zuma’s...

Day two of State Security Agency testimony at the Zondo commission birthed more revelations that point to the former head of state and agents breaking the law

Covax will take excess doses of Covid vaccines off the...

The global initiative plans to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations

Eastern Cape citizens don’t have to visit the labour department...

This measure, aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, may shortly be introduced in other regions.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…