By Vexen Crabtree 2016
Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. LGBT folk face legal restrictions as well as social stigmatisation and violence1. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries1. The International LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of equal LGBT rights. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. The Economist (2012) produced a graph (below) for the USA and UK, and stated that "the British Social Attitudes Survey shows that views of homosexuality started out tough and hardened in the mid-1980s - the period of the AIDS panic. Since then they have softened (see chart). The young are more liberal than their parents"2. Over time, the situation is improving. Europe is by far the developed morally, with Scandinavia in particular being exemplary. The Middle East is by far the worst place to be anything other than straight.
In nearly every country strong opposition to LGBT equality and anti-discrimination laws has come from the Catholic Church, conservative Christianity, or Muslim authorities. The USA's moral development suffers from the powerful influence of conservatism tied to the Religious Right (i.e., fundamentalist evangelical Christianity) and "homosexuality was officially classified as a mental illness in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1973"3. In the Netherlands "the only opposition in parliament came from the Christian Democratic Party, which at the time was not part of the governing coalition. [...] Muslim and conservative Christian groups continue to oppose the law" [PF 2013). In Spain "Vatican officials, as well as the Catholic Spanish Bishops Conference, strongly criticized the law". In Norway there was "resistance from members of the Christian Democratic Party and the Progress Party" [...] "Lutheran-affiliated Church of Norway, was split over the issue. Following passage of the new law, the church's leaders voted to prohibit its pastors from conducting same-sex weddings". In Argentina "vigorous opposition from the Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant churches".
Obnoxiousness is not the preserve of Christian and Muslim organisations however. In South Africa religious institutions and civil officers can refuse to conduct ceremonies and "the traditional monarch of the Zulu people, who account for about one-fifth of the country's population, maintains that homosexuality is morally wrong". In the UK Christianity is a forgotten power with very little influence over public opinion. However, there are still plenty of bigots around in the UK. The UKIP party (UK Independence Party)'s official online forum has "been used to vent 'racist and homophobic' views by some of the party´s top members, including comparing homosexuality to bestiality and paedophilia", according to Pink News (2013)4. Support for UKIP comes from the under-privileged, poorly educated and angry central trash culture of the UK, which is the same segment of society that is classically considered the most homophobic and xenophobic and this pattern of aggressiveness against LGBT tolerance probably repeats across the West.
In 2008 Veronique Mottier in "Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction" reported that "around 70 countries currently criminalize homosexuality (and, in the case of Zimbabwe, same-sex hand-holding as well)"5. It is slightly more common to find that homosexual sexual activity is outlawed, as is the case in around 80 countries according to Jack Donnelly in "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice" (2013)1.
“Psychiatric labels [of homosexuality as a mental illness] were abolished in the UK in 1994, in the Russian Federation in 1999, and by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry in 2001, after gay rights groups as well as dissenting psychiatrists argued that homophobia rather than homosexuality was the problem.”
“In Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen (plus certain states in Nigeria) penalties up to death may be imposed. In Iran, at least three gay men were executed in both 2010 and 2011. (The actual number is almost certainly much higher.) While I was revising this chapter, four more were sentenced to death.”
The Pattern of European Progression:
“Kees Waaldijk has found [... :]The law in most countries seems to be moving on a line starting at (0) total ban on homo-sex, then going through the process of (1) the decriminalisation of sex between adults, followed by (2) the equalisation of ages of consent, (3) the introduction of anti-discrimination legislation, and (4) the introduction of legal partnership. A fifth point on the line might be the legal recognition of homosexual parenthood.6
The basic logic is one of gradual inclusion, moving through increasingly active measures of nondiscrimination in a wide range of areas of public activity.”
The points awarded take into account multiple factors: for how long fully equal same-sex marriage has been legal, for how long gay adoption has been possible, for how long civil unions have been possible (or any other similar domestic partnering functions that grant some equal rights to LGBT folk). A point is awarded for having signed the UN 2008 document in support of LGBT non-harassment and equality, and, a negative point is awarded for signing the anti-LGBT-document championed by the Catholic Church and the Muslim world in 2008 December. Some countries signed the opposing document but have since switched; they now get 0.5 points. Positive points are given for gay sex not being illegal and negative points for its illegality, and, a point for there being effective anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT folk.
Several of these factors are scaled by age; meaning, the longer ago the positive change was made, the higher the score is for that criteria. Some of the criteria are necessarily capped at a maximum score as some countries have never had anti-gay-sex laws, for example.
Where same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions (CU) are only legal in some states of the country, but not others, I multiply the SSM+CU points by the proportion of states that accept it. Therefore, the more states that accept it, the fuller proportion of proper score the country receives.
The legality points are awarded negatively according to severity of punishments for being accused of having gay sex. There is -1 point for each year of imprisonment, -20 points for life imprisonment or corporal punishment, and, -50 points if homosexuality carries the death penalty. Many countries only have such laws against male homosexuality, but, where the laws are gender unequal, I've still assigned the worse possible points. In some cases I have reduced points if it is public knowledge that the country does not actually make its discriminatory laws effective. If gay sex is not illegal, then, points are awarded according to how long it has been legal, to a maximum of 10 points. Generally, from 1970 and further back, one point is awarded per decade.
|Area||Social & Moral|
|74||Bosnia & Herzegovina||25|
|81||Central African Rep.||20|
|87||Timor-Leste (E. Timor)||20|
|116||Sao Tome & Principe||10|
|175||St Vincent & Grenadines||-100|
|179||St Kitts & Nevis||-100|
|184||Trinidad & Tobago||-120|
|190||Papua New Guinea||-140|
|192||Antigua & Barbuda||-150|
Current edition: 2016 Jun 04
Parent page: Human Sexuality
All #tags used on this page - click for more:
#argentina #china #christianity #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #iran #islam #law #mauritania #netherlands #nigeria #norway #religion #russia #saudi_arabia #sexuality #south_africa #spain #sudan #tolerance #UK #USA #yemen
The Economist. Published by The Economist Group, Ltd. A weekly newspaper in magazine format, famed for its accuracy, wide scope and intelligent content. See vexen.co.uk/references.html#Economist for some commentary on this source..
(2013) Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. 3rd edition. Published by Cornell University Press.
(1994) Article "Standard Sequences in the Legal Recognition of Homosexuality: Europe's Past, Present, and Future" published in the Australian Gay and Lesbian Law Journal 4 (4):5-72. In Donnelly (2013) p290.
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