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Russia has deservedly been receiving a great deal of media coverage of its newly enacted anti-gay laws - laws motivated by a desire to distract the public from government corruption and incompetence and to win the support of Neanderthals in the Russian Orthodox Church. But sadly, Russia is only one a many countries where being gay continues to be illegal and, in some cases can subject one to the death penalty. The main distinction for Russia, is that unlike all but one or two of these other anti-gay countries, it likes to view itself as a modern, civilized and westernized nation. These new laws underscore that such is, in fact, not the case. BuzzFeed looks at the other anti-gay countries around the world - countries that gays and their allies should avoid visiting or financially supporting in any way. Here are highlights:
It is illegal to be gay in 76 countries. Punishments range from fines to short and lifelong prison sentences, hard labor, forced psychiatric treatment, banishment, whippings, and death by public stoning. The upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have put Russia’s “gay propaganda” law and the international community on an unavoidable collision course, but whatever happens in February is only the beginning of a broader (and much more complicated) conversation about the status of LGBT rights around the world.
In May 2013, the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) released a 110-page study on the status of the international LGBT community with country-by-country profiles of relevant laws. The report is updated annually and was used throughout this post along with other sources when possible.
Here's a sampling of some of these nations - some of which receive billions of dollars in American aid, something that needs to be rethought if change doesn't take place:
1. Afghanistan — Imprisonment. During Taliban rule, same-sex activity in Afghanistan could lead to the death penalty. The situation has improved, relatively speaking, as a conviction for “pederasty” — used to describe all homosexual relations, regardless of the persons’ ages — results in a “long” prison sentence.
4. Antigua and Barbuda — Up to 15 years in prison. “Buggery,” a common term for same-sex relations in the Caribbean, comes with a possible 15-year jail sentence in Antigua and Barbuda. The lesser charge of “serious indecency” applies to sexual acts other than sodomy, punishable by up to five years in prison by consenting adults.
6. Barbados — Up to life in prison. According to Barbados’ Sexual Offenses Act of 1992, “Any person who commits buggery is guilty of an offense and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for life.” The lesser, related charge “serious indecency” can result in up to 10 years in prison.
7. Belize — 10 years in prison. Having sex with a person of the same sex is considered an “unnatural crime” in Belize and comes with a 10-year prison sentence.
14. Dominica — Up to 25 years in prison and a possible psychiatric treatment. In addition to jail sentences for “gross indecency” (maximum 10 years) and “buggery” violations (maximum 25), the island of Dominca could also require “ex-gay” therapy. As noted in Section 16 of the country’s penal code: “Any person who attempts to commit the offense of buggery, or is guilty of an assault with the intent to commit the same is guilty of an offense and liable to imprisonment for four years and, if the Court thinks it, the Court may order that the convicted person be admitted to the psychiatric hospital for treatment.”
23. Jamaica — Up to 10 years in prison. Jamaican law terms “buggery” an “abominable” crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Just a few weeks ago, a teenager was brutally murdered after being caught cross-dressing at a street party in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The tragedy once again underscores how state-sanctioned homophobia is only part of the hostility LGBT people face across the world.
24. Iran — Death penalty. Even with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who infamously declared during a 2007 appearance at Columbia University, “In Iran, we don’t have gays”) no longer in office, Iran remains one of the most anti-gay nations on earth. Men convicted of sodomy — defined under the Islamic Penal Code of 1991 as “sexual intercourse with a male” — face death, the method of which is determined by a Shariah (Islamic law) judge. A man just kissing another man is punishable by “60 lashes.”
49. Saudi Arabia — Banishment, whipping, and death by public stoning. According to the 2013 ILGA report, “There is no codifed Penal Law in Saudi-Arabia. Instead, the country applies strict Islamic Sharia law. According to the interpretation sodomy is criminalized. For a married man the penalty is death by stoning, while the penalty for an unmarried man is 100 blows of the whip as well as banishment for a year. For a non-Muslim, who commits sodomy with a Muslim, the penalty is death by stoning. Moreover are all sexual relations outside of marriage illegal in Saudi-Arabia according to the Sharia law, including sexual relations between women.”
53. Singapore — Up to two years in jail; same-sex relations between women are legal. In April 2013, the highest court in Singapore threw out a challenge to the country’s anti-sodomy law, saying it was a decision best left to the legislature. An LGBT activist in the country told AFP, “[The law] doesn’t just criminalise gay men. It justifies a wide range of abusive behaviours and institutionalises discrimination against LGBT people. It sends the wrong signal to the world that Singapore is a backward and regressive state.”
58. St. Kitts and Nevis — Up to 10 years in prison, possibly with hard labor. The ILGA’s 2013 analysis of St. Kitts and Nevis’ “Offenses Against the Person Act” notes that, “The Revised Laws prescribe terms of imprisonment of up to ten years, with or without hard labor, upon conviction for engaging in anal sex, described as “the abominable crime of buggery.” Attempted “buggery” is sanctioned by up to four years imprisonment, with or without hard labor, as is “any indecent assault upon any male person.” The latter, which is in no way defined, is subject to arbitrary interpretation. It could potentially encompass any behavior perceived as a “homosexual advance.”