The majority of the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations, formerly known as the British Commonwealth, still criminalise sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex and other forms of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 31of the 56 sovereign states of the Commonwealth; and legal in only 25.
This has been described as being the result of "the major historical influence" or legacy of the British Empire. In most cases, it was former colonial administrators that established anti-gay legislation or sodomy acts during the 19th century and even earlier. The majority of countries have retained these laws following independence.Due to the common origin of historical penal codes in many former British colonies, the prohibition of homosexual acts, specifically anal sex between men, is provided for in Section 377 in the penal codes of 42 former British colonies, many of whom are today members of the Commonwealth.
The penalties for private, consensual sexual conduct between same sex adults remain harsh in a number of Commonwealth countries. They include 10 years' imprisonment and hard labour in Jamaica, 14 years in Kenya, and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia. A cluster of member states have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment: Bangladesh, Guyana, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda. Meanwhile, Brunei and Northern Nigeriahave a maximum penalty for male homosexuality of death. In some countries such as Cameroon, arrests and imprisonment for acts that indicate homosexuality are frequently reported. In Uganda and Nigeria, recent legislative proposals would significantly increase the penalties for homosexuality.
Homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 34 (see below) of the 54 sovereign states of the Commonwealth and legal in only 19 (see below).
However, developments in the area of employment discrimination suggests some progress is being made, with member states such as the Seychelles (2006), Fiji (2007), Mozambique (2007), Mauritius (2008) and Botswana (2010) introducing legislation against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.In November 2012, Malawi's President Joyce Banda suspended all laws that criminalised homosexuality.
A report produced in November 2015 by the Human Dignity Trust in association with the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association claims that countries that continue to criminalize same-sex relationships were worsening the impacts of the HIV/AIDS crisis. The report estimates that some 2.9 billion people live in Commonwealth countries where consensual homosexuality is punishable, and approximately 174 million living there may identify as LGBT. It found that:
There is a direct link between criminalizing laws and increased rates of HIV, and the Commonwealth undeniably demonstrates this link. The Commonwealth accounts for approximately 30% of the world's population but over 60% of HIV cases worldwide. This situation has gotten progressively worse.
In July 2011 it was reported that the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, had spoken out against discrimination towards people who were gay or lesbian while on a visit to Australia, arguing that “vilification and targeting on grounds of sexual orientation are at odds with the values of the Commonwealth”. This was the first time that such a senior Commonwealth figure had spoken publicly on the issue.Sharma re-emphasised the point in his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting:
We recall the 2009 Affirmation of Commonwealth Values and Principles, which includes a clear commitment to tolerance, respect and understanding... Discrimination and criminalisation on grounds of sexual orientation is at odds with our values and I have had occasion to refer to this in the context of our law-related conferences.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland, who took office on 1 April 2016, committed herself to using the first two years of her tenure to promote decriminalization of homosexuality in the Commonwealth countries that list homosexual behaviour as a crime.However, she has suggested that the way forward needs to be built through establishing consensus:
We do not have the right or opportunity to force states, but we can start a really good conversation to work with them so they understand the economic issues in relations to human rights and make the change.
The British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and the South Australian Labor MLC Ian Hunter called for LGBT rights to be put on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Perth at the end of October 2011.
CHOGM has never even discussed—let alone declared its support for—LGBT equality and human rights. It is long overdue that CHOGM addressed this humanitarian issue, which it has neglected for far too long.
This found further support when the Perth Member of the Legislative Assembly, John Hyde, called on Premier Colin Barnett to use his access to CHOGM delegates to address the issue of human rights for gay men and lesbians.Finally, it was confirmed that the Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, would intervene at the October meeting with a request to scrap anti-LGBT laws. The discussion on LGBT rights at the Perth meeting received a muted response from most of the attending delegates despite strong support from the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Agreement could not be reached to publish a report by Eminent Persons which looked at the Commonwealth's future relevance and demanded that all member states that outlawed homosexuality lift their bans.
In November 2015, Baroness Verma, Under-Secretary of State at the UK's Department for International Development, announced that she would be chairing a round table on LGBT issues at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta.
Subsequently, in 2016 the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, urged Commonwealth countries to remove anti-LGBT laws while speaking at the Service of Celebration for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey. Queen Elizabeth, Head of the Commonwealth, was present.
In June 2017, the Commonwealth approved the accreditation of the Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN), making it the first LGBTI-focussed organisation to be officially accredited. Accreditation means that Equality Network activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in and information about Commonwealth matters.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, indicated his support:
It's simply appalling how people can be treated—how their rights are trampled on and the prejudices and even the violence they suffer. I want Britain to be a global beacon for reform.
The Minister for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, subsequently indicated that the UK would withhold development aid from countries that had a poor human rights record in relation to its LGBT citizens.Malawi subsequently had £19 million of budget support suspended by the UK following various infractions including poor progress on human rights and media freedoms and concern over the government's approach to rights of its LGBT citizens. This was later reinforced by David Cameron, who emphasised that those receiving UK aid should "adhere to proper human rights". After the Government of Seychelles agreed to push forward with plans to repeal the country's anti-gay law, they specifically noted advocacy from British diplomats.
In 2014, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary-General urging him to use his position to urge member states to live up to their responsibilities to promote the rights of their LGBT citizens. He later argued that Britain should must make defending the rights of gay and lesbian people a key plank of its relations with other Commonwealth countries.
In April 2018, Britain hosted the Heads of Government meeting in London. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said she regretted that many of the current laws across Commonwealth countries that criminalised homosexuality were a direct legacy of British colonialism; and offered to support any government that wanted to reform its legislation. More than 100,000 people had signed a petition calling for the issue of LGBT rights to be raised at the meeting.
The Kaleidoscope Trust was established in London in 2011 to lobby Britain's politicians so that ministers discuss LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) issues whenever they host their counterparts. It specifically aims to revoke anti-LGBT laws within the Commonwealth using business and political pressure. The singers Elton John and George Michael offered support, with Elton John attending the launch.
|Same-sex intercourse illegal. Penalties:|
Prison; death not enforced
Death under militias
Prison, with arrests or detention
Prison, not enforced
|Same-sex intercourse legal. Recognition of unions:|
Restrictions of expression
|Neither||States which did not support either declaration|
|Non-member states||States that are not voting members of the United Nations|
|Oppose||States which supported an opposing declaration in 2008 and continued their opposition in 2011|
|Subsequent member||South Sudan, which was not a member of the United Nations in 2008|
|Support||States which supported the LGBT rights declaration in the General Assembly or on the Human Rights Council in 2008 or 2011|
Notes: †Signed UN General Assembly declaration in favour of LGBT rights. ‡Signed alternative Statement against LGBT rights.
Notes: †Signed UN General Assembly declaration in favour of LGBT rights. ‡Signed alternative Statement against LGBT rights.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Hungary face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Homosexuality is legal in Hungary for both men and women. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex is banned in the country. However, households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the same legal rights available to heterosexual married couples. Registered partnership for same-sex couples was legalised in 2009, but same-sex marriage remains banned. The Hungarian government has passed legislation that restricts the civil rights of LGBT Hungarians – such as ending legal recognition of transgender Hungarians and banning LGBT content and displays for minors. This trend continues under the Fidesz government of Viktor Orbán. In June 2021, Hungary passed an anti-LGBT law on banning "homosexual and transexual propaganda" effective since July 1. The law has been condemned by seventeen EU countries so far. Also, in July 2021, the EU Commission has started legal action against Hungary and Poland for violations of fundamental rights of LGBTQI people: "Europe will never allow parts of our society to be stigmatized." Russia had similar laws implemented in 2013.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Fiji have evolved rapidly over the years, however LGBT people may still face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. In 1997, Fiji became the second country in the world after South Africa to explicitly protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation in its Constitution. In 2009, the Constitution was abolished. The new Constitution, promulgated in September 2013, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. However, same-sex marriage remains banned in Fiji and reports of societal discrimination and bullying are not uncommon.
The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have developed significantly over time. Today, lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights are considered to be advanced by international standards. However, the country has developed an increasingly negative reputation regarding the status of transgender rights, with anti-trans rhetoric being described as "rife" in the UK media landscape.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Kenya face significant challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Sodomy is a felony per Section 162 of the Kenyan Penal Code, punishable by 21 years' imprisonment, and any sexual practices are a felony under section 165 of the same statute, punishable by 5 years' imprisonment. On 24 May 2019, the High Court of Kenya refused an order to declare sections 162 and 165 unconstitutional. The state does not recognise any relationships between persons of the same sex; same-sex marriage is banned under the Kenyan Constitution since 2010. There are no explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Adoption is prohibited to same-sex couples.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Cyprus face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Cyprus since 1998, and civil unions which grant several of the rights and benefits of marriage have been legal since December 2015. Conversion therapy was banned in Cyprus in May 2023.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the British Crown dependency of the Isle of Man have evolved substantially since the early 2000s. Private and consensual acts of male homosexuality on the island were decriminalised in 1992. LGBT rights have been extended and recognised in law since then, such as an equal age of consent (2006), employment protection from discrimination (2006), gender identity recognition (2009), the right to enter into a civil partnership (2011), the right to adopt children (2011) and the right to enter into a civil marriage (2016).
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Angola have seen improvements in the early half of the twenty-first century. In November 2020, the National Assembly approved a new penal code, which legalised consenting same-sex sexual activity. Additionally, employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been banned, making Angola one of the few African countries to have such protections for LGBT people.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Botswana face legal issues not experienced by non-LGBT citizens. Both female and male same-sex sexual acts have been legal in Botswana since 11 June 2019 after a unanimous ruling by the High Court of Botswana. Despite an appeal by the government, the ruling was upheld by the Botswana Court of Appeal on 29 November 2021.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Dominica face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Sodomy, also known as "buggery", is illegal for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. Dominica provides no recognition to same-sex unions, whether in the form of marriage or civil unions, and no law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Uganda face severe legal challenges, active discrimination, state persecution and stigmatisation not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female homosexual activity is illegal in Uganda.
With the exception of South Africa and Cape Verde, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Africa are limited in comparison to the Americas, Western Europe and Oceania.
Oceania is, like other regions, quite diverse in its laws regarding homosexuality. This ranges from significant rights granted to the LGBT community in New Zealand, Australia, Guam, Hawaii, Easter Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Pitcairn Islands to remaining criminal penalties for homosexual activity in 6 countries and one territory. Although acceptance is growing across the Pacific, violence and social stigma remain issues for LGBTI communities. This also leads to problems with healthcare, including access to HIV treatment in countries such as Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands where homosexuality is criminalised.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Bermuda, a British Overseas Territory, face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Homosexuality is legal in Bermuda, but the territory has long held a reputation for being homophobic and intolerant. Since 2013, the Human Rights Act has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Barbados do not possess the same legal rights as non-LGBT people. In December 2022, the courts ruled Barbados' laws against buggery and "gross indecency" were unconstitutional and struck them from the Sexual Offences Act. However, there is no recognition of same-sex relationships and only limited legal protections against discrimination.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Belize face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT citizens, although attitudes have been changing in recent years. Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in Belize in 2016, when the Supreme Court declared Belize's anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. Belize's constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which Belizean courts have interpreted to include sexual orientation.
This is a list of events in 2011 that affected LGBT rights.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people living in Nauru may face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since May 2016, but there are no legal recognition of same-sex unions, or protections against discrimination in the workplace or the provision of goods and services.
This article gives a broad overview of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history in Canada. LGBT activity was considered a crime from the colonial period in Canada until 1969, when Bill C-150 was passed into law. However, there is still discrimination despite anti-discrimination law. For a more detailed listing of individual incidents in Canadian LGBT history, see also Timeline of LGBT history in Canada.
This is a timeline of notable events in the history of non-heterosexual conforming people of African ancestry, who may identify as LGBTIQGNC, men who have sex with men, or related culturally specific identities. This timeline includes events both in Africa, the Americas and Europe and in the global African diaspora, as the histories are very deeply linked.
The history of sexual minorities in Sri Lanka covered in this article dates back to a couple of centuries before the start of the Vikram Samvat era, although it is highly likely that archaeology predating this period exists. There are virtually zero historical records of sexual minorities in the Latin script dating prior to colonialism. The concept of Sri Lanka did not exist prior to colonialism, and the term 'lanka' translates to 'island'.