While gay-rights activists celebrate gains in much of the world, their setbacks have been equally far-flung, and often sweeping in scope.
In Russia, a new law against “gay propaganda” has left gays and lesbians unsure of what public actions they can take without risking arrest. In India, gay-rights supporters were stunned by a recent high court ruling re-criminalizing gay sex. A newly signed law in Nigeria sets 10-year prison terms for joining or promoting any gay organization, while a pending bill in Uganda would impose life sentences for some types of gay sex.
Globally, the contrasts are striking. Sixteen countries have legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, including Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and New Zealand as well as 10 European nations, and gay marriage is legal in parts of the United States and Mexico. Yet at least 76 countries retain laws criminalizing gay sex, including five where it’s punishable by death.
Here’s a look at some of the major regions where the gay-rights movement remains embattled or marginalized:
According to human rights groups, more than two-thirds of African countries outlaw consensual same-sex acts, and discrimination and violence against gays, lesbians and transgender people is commonplace. While many of the laws date to the colonial era, opposition to homosexuality has gained increasing traction as a political tactic over the past two decades.
Africans promoting anti-gay legislation have expressed alarm about gains made by sexual minorities in the United States and Europe. They say laws such as the one newly signed in Nigeria can serve as a bulwark against Western pressure to enshrine gay rights.
The world’s largest continent, Asia is a mixed bag when it comes to gay issues, due to vast differences in culture, religion and history. Though no Asian nation yet allows gay marriage, Thailand has a government-sponsored campaign to attract gay tourists, while China, Vietnam and Taiwan, among others, are increasingly accepting of gays and lesbians.
In most of the country, however, being gay is seen as shameful, and many gays remain closeted.
While the gay-rights movement has achieved victories in some South American countries, gays remain targets of violence and harassment in parts of Central America and the Caribbean.
Russia’s law banning “gay propaganda” has drawn extensive criticism abroad, but seems to be widely accepted at home. The law was signed in June by President Vladimir Putin after sailing through Parliament. It levies heavy fines on anyone convicted of propagandizing “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors.
Across most of the Middle East, homosexual relations are taboo, though not all nations choose to prosecute homosexuals and punishments vary.
The pervasiveness of religion in everyday life plays a major factor in how societies view homosexuality.