Will Qatar really legalize homosexuality?

Criminalization, hatred and violence - fifty years after Stonewall, homosexuals still face major problems in many countries

In 69 states, homosexuality is still a criminal offense, and in seven same-sex sex is punishable by death. In many places, equal treatment of homosexuals remains wishful thinking. A brief overview.

When homosexuals cracked down on the New York police in a 1969 raid on the Stonewall Inn bar, marking a turning point in the fight for equality, same-sex relationships were criminalized in more than a hundred states around the world. Since then a lot has happened. However, in many countries homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people still face huge problems.

In 69 states, homosexuality is still a criminal offense, as data from the human rights organization Ilga show. In Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Sudan, and parts of Somalia and Nigeria, same-sex sex is punishable by death. According to Ilga, Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan are all countries that can impose the death penalty for same-sex sex. 31 countries punish homosexuality with imprisonment of up to eight years, 26 states even with ten years up to life imprisonment.

Homosexuality is predominantly criminalized in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. In Africa, where same-sex relationships are punishable in more than thirty countries, homophobic politicians like Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni like to argue that homosexuality is “un-African” and an import from the West.

Positive development in Botswana and Taiwan

Exactly the opposite, however, recently ruled the Supreme Court in Botswana, where homosexuality has been up to seven years in prison. It declared that the prohibition of same-sex love was a relic from the Victorian era and lifted it. Angola had taken the same step four months earlier. There has also been good news from Asia in recent months: In May, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage.

However, other countries have recently been noticed by negative developments. The Sultanate of Brunei caused horror in April with the decision to punish sexual intercourse between men with stoning on the basis of Sharia law. After violent international protests, the sultan of the small Southeast Asian state declared that he would continue to refrain from carrying out the death penalty. But even before April there were draconian punishments for homosexuality such as flogging or long imprisonment. In Kenya, the Supreme Court debated legalizing homosexuality in May, but then decided to leave the ban in place. This means that homosexuals in the East African country continue to risk up to fourteen years in prison.

Even in states where homosexuality is legal, members of the LGBT community are often victims of discrimination, stigma, hate speech and violence. In its report on the global situation of homosexuals and transgender people, published in March, the organization Ilga warns of an increase in hate crimes, assaults, harassment and threats on social networks. In several countries, high-ranking politicians also attracted attention with homophobic statements.

Homophobia in government circles

In Poland, the head of the right-wing nationalist ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) recently described homosexuals as a threat. The Council of Europe recently complained that hate speech that is anti-gay and lesbian is also widespread in Russia's political and religious leadership circles. Since 2013, a law against homosexual propaganda in Russia has punished those who make positive statements about homosexuality in the presence of minors.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been in office since the beginning of the year, also regularly shocks with homophobic statements. He said, for example, that he would rather his son be dead than gay. Recently, Bolsonaro said he didn't want his country to become a gay tourist paradise. Representatives of the LGBT community accuse him of poisoning the mood in the country and inciting Brazilians against homosexuals. Legally, Brazil is ahead of many countries - the country introduced same-sex marriage in 2013, and discrimination against homosexuals and transgender people has recently become a criminal offense. At the same time, however, the country records several hundred homicides every year with a homophobic or transphobic background. The case of Jean Wyllys is also indicative of the situation in Brazil. The openly homosexual congressman fled the country in January and resigned from office because of so many death threats.