The List of Pain and Shame: State-Sponsored Homophobia Around The World

Alexander J. Segal's picture

At least 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalize consensual same sex acts among adults. Among those, 7 have legal provisions with death penalty as punishment. If you identify yourself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender/transsexual, and if you are a citizen of one of the countries listed below, you may be eligible for asylum in the United States. As an applicant for asylum, you will need to explain your fear of prosecution and persecution in your homeland on account of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

These are truly ghastly and shocking statistics — shocking because this list includes some of the most popular vacation destinations often visited by Western tourists, gay and straight alike. So keep this information in mind when booking your next vacation to Jamaica, Morocco, Maldives, or Saint Lucia!

Afghanistan: as of 1976, two males or two females engaged in homosexual activity may be sentenced to long imprisonment or death, as prescribed by the Penal Code and the Islamic Sharia law.

Algeria: Article 338 of the Penal Code: “Anyone guilty of a homosexual act (either male or female) is punishable with imprisonment of between 2 months and 2 years, and with a fine of 500 to 2000 Algerian Dinars.”

Angola: both male and female homosexuals, if caught in an intimate situation, will be sentenced to hard labor in a prison camp (length of sentence unspecified).

Antigua & Barbuda: consensual homosexual activity is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Bahrain: sexual acts between men are punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years.

Bangladesh: an “Unnatural Offence”, i.e., sexual intercourse between two men, is punishable by a prison sentence of 10 years to life, and a fine.

Barbados: both male and female homosexuals may be imprisoned for life if convicted of being involved in a sexual relationship.

Belize: “Unnatural Crime” of sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex, either male or female, is punishable by a 10-year prison term.

Benin: Article 88: “Anyone who commits an indecent act or an act against nature with an individual of the same sex will be punished with 1 to 3 years in prison and a fine of 100 000 to 500 000 francs.”

Bhutan: consensual homosexual relations are regarded as “petty misdemeanor” and carry a minimum punishment of 1 month in prison.

Botswana: gays and lesbians may be imprisoned for up to 7 years for “Unnatural Offence” of being involved in homosexual activity.

Brunei: homosexual men may be imprisoned for up to 10 years and also fined.

Burkina Faso: Article 411: “Any act of sexual nature that is contrary to good morals and is committed directly and deliberately on another person with or without force, compulsion or surprise, shall constitute an offence against public decency.”

Cameroon: both male and female homosexuals may be punished with a term of imprisonment of 5 years and a fine of between 50 000 and 1 000 000 francs.

Comoros: same as Cameroon.

Cook Islands (New Zealand associate): homosexual men may be sent to prison for up to 14 years; this law applies to Cook Islands only and has no standing in New Zealand.

Costa Rica: those practicing “sodomy” may be subjects to fines (amount unspecified).

Democratic Republic of Congo: 3 months to 5 years imprisonment and a fine for both gay men and women.

Djibouti: same-sex intercourse is simply illegal. The punishment is not specified.

Dominica: 5 to 10 years imprisonment or compulsory psychiatric treatment.

Egypt: homosexual acts in private are not illegal as such; however, certain laws have been used to persecute gay men, such as “Contempt for Religion” and “Shameless Public Acts”.

Eritrea: “Unnatural Carnal Offences”, such as sexual acts between two persons of the same sex are punished with imprisonment (length unspecified).

Ethiopia: Article 629: “Whoever performs with another person of the same sex a homosexual act, or any other indecent act, is punishable with simple imprisonment.”

Gambia: imprisonment for up to 14 years for both men and women.

Gaza (Part of Palestinian Authority): sexual acts between men are punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Ghana: male homosexuality is punished by prison terms between 5 and 25 years.

Grenada: 10 years in prison for male homosexuals

Guinea: 6 months to 3 years in prison for both gays and lesbians and a fine of 100 000 to 1 000 000 Guinean francs.

Guinea-Bissau: both male and female homosexuals may be sent to labor camps for an unspecified amount of time if caught in an intimate situation.

Guyana: persons convicted of “buggery” may be sentenced for life in prison.

Indonesia: certain provinces were allowed to adopt the Sharia Law, which carries death penalty for homosexual relations.

Iran: death penalty for homosexual acts. The executions are public and have been widely exposed in the Western media.

Iraq: the Penal Code does not prohibit sexual activities between consenting adults of the same sex. However, since the US-led invasion, the local militias have been involved in mass killings of LGBT persons without any interference from the government.

Jamaica: male homosexuality is punished by up to 10 years of hard labor and imprisonment.

Kenya: up to 7 years in prison for male homosexuals.

Kiribati: 14 years imprisonment for homosexual men.

Kuwait: Article 193: “Consensual intercourse between men of full age (from the age of 21) shall be punishable with a term of imprisonment of up to 7 years.”

Lebanon: both male and female homosexuals may be imprisoned from 1 month to 1 year and fined between 200 000 and 1 000 000 Lebanese pounds.

Lesotho: male “sodomy” is prohibited as a common-law offense.

Liberia: both male and female homosexuality is classified as a first degree misdemeanor.

Libya: both male and female homosexuality was prosecuted under the Gaddafi regime; the current state of laws in Libya is unclear, but it is likely that homosexuality will be prosecuted under the new government as well.

Malawi: this country has one of the cruelest punishments for male homosexual activities: up to 14 years in prison, corporal punishment, and possibility of death penalty.

Malaysia: up to 20 years in prison for homosexual men and public whipping.

Maldives: male homosexuals may be facing banishment from 9 months to 1 year or a whipping of 10 to 30 strokes, while lesbian women may be subjected to house arrest for the same amount of time.

Mauritania: homosexual men face death penalty by public stoning.

Mauritius: up to 5 years in prison for male homosexuals.

Morocco: 6 months to 3 years imprisonment for both male and female homosexuals and a fine of 120 to 1000 dirhams.

Mozambique: both male and female homosexuals are facing terms in labor camps (length unspecified)

Myanmar/Burma: gay men may be imprisoned for up to 10 years.

Namibia: consensual sex between men is prohibited as a common law offense. The punishment is unspecified.

Nauru: homosexual men are facing prison terms of up to 14 years of hard labor.

Nepal: 1 year of imprisonment for both men and women, or a fine of 5000 rupees.

Nigeria: consensual sex between men is a felony punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Oman: 6 months to 3 years of jail time for both gays and lesbians.

Pakistan: male homosexuality is punished by 2 to 10 years of prison time.

Palau: Article 2803: “Sodomy on either males or females — up to 10 years imprisonment.”

Panama: 3 months to 1 year imprisonment for both gays and lesbians or a fine between 50 and 500 USD.

Papua New Guinea: men involved in homosexual activity are facing imprisonment for up to 14 years.

Qatar: homosexual men and women may be prosecuted according to Articles 281 and 284 of the Penal Code which prescribe imprisonment for up to 7 years.

Saint Kitts and Nevis: gay men are facing up to 10 years imprisonment, with or without hard labor.

Saint Lucia: up to 10 years imprisonment on this island paradise for both men and women involved in homosexual acts.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: same as Saint Lucia.

Sao Tome and Principe: both men and women of homosexual orientation may be sent to labor camps for unspecified amount of time.

Saudi Arabia: most of the Muslim world has an atrocious record when it comes to LGBT rights, but the Saudi kingdom truly stands out among them for their savagery. If a married man is convicted of sodomy, he is to be stoned to death. An unmarried man will receive 100 blows by a whip and be banished for 1 year. If a non-Muslim commits sodomy with a Muslim, he, too, shall be stoned to death.

Senegal: homosexuals in Senegal, both male and female, may be sent to prison for 1 to 5 years. If one of the persons in question is under 21, his or her partner may be sentenced to capital punishment.

Seychelles: consensual sexual relations between men are categorized as felony in Seychelles which carries a jail term of 14 years.

Sierra Leone: two men caught having sex in Sierra Leon may be facing a life in prison.

Singapore: male homosexuality is penalized with up to 10 years in jail.

Solomon Islands: various prison terms and fines may be applied to both gay and lesbian persons.

Somalia: in this impoverished war-torn Muslim nation, homosexual persons convicted of “carnal intercourse” will be facing prison terms of 3 months to 3 years.

Sri Lanka: up to 10 years in prison on the island of Sri Lanka, both for men and women involved in “voluntary carnal intercourse”.

Sudan: this Muslim nation has one of the poorest human rights records on the planet, and the LGBT people get their share of persecution and abuse. Men convicted of sodomy are punished with flogging (100 lashes) and up to 5 years in prison. If a person is convicted of sodomy for the third time, he will be executed or given a life sentence.

Swaziland: sodomy between men is prohibited in Swaziland as a common law offense. The government is currently implementing new laws which would prohibit any sexual acts between persons of the same sex (men or women) with a punishment of 2 years in prison and a hefty fine.

Syria: Article 520 of the Penal Code states: “Any unnatural sexual intercourse shall be punished with a term of imprisonment of up to 3 years.”

Tanzania: consensual sexual activities between men are punished by imprisonment of no less than 30 years and up to a life sentence.

Togo: 3 years in prison and a fine of 100 000 to 500 000 await gay and lesbian individuals in this West African nation.

Tokelau (New Zealand associate): various prison terms up to 10 years can be applied to homosexual men.

Tonga: the Penal Code equated sodomy with bestiality and prescribes punishment for up to 10 years in prison.

Trinidad and Tobago: gay men may be sentenced for up to 25 years in prison, while lesbian women can be jailed for 10 for the first offense of having sex, and 15 years for a repeated offense.

Tunisia: although the Arab Spring uprising has swept off the authoritarian rule in Tunisia, its sodomy laws remain in place. Article 230 of the Penal Code provides for a punishment of 3 years in prison for individuals convicted of this crime.

Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus: homosexual activities between men are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Turkmenistan: while most of the former Soviet republics have repealed the laws targeting homosexual individuals, Turkmenistan continues to punish consensual sex between men with up to 2 years in jail. Our office has successfully represented several LGBT applicants for asylum from Turkmenistan.

Tuvalu: men who have sex with men in Tuvalu are facing prison terms for up to 14 years.

Uganda: this African nation has a particularly dreadful record when it comes to LGBT rights. Currently, the homosexual activities are punished with life imprisonment, but for the past few years the Ugandan lawmakers have been trying to implement death penalty as an ultimate punishment for homosexual individuals. The Western media has reported extensively on this appalling development, as well as the wide-spread violence against LGBT persons in Uganda.

United Arab Emirates: even though the city of Dubai is now one of the world's financial and cultural centers, this Muslim nation continues to prosecute homosexual activities between men with death penalty.

Uzbekistan: this former Soviet republic continues to punish male homosexuals with up to three years in prison. This homophobic statute is often used by the Uzbek police force to intimidate, abuse, and blackmail gay men, as well as their friends and families. Our office has successfully represented several LGBT applicants for asylum from this Central Asian nation.

Western Samoa: various jail terms can be given to men convicted of having consensual sexual relationship.

Yemen: this Muslim nation follows Saudi Arabia in its policies targeting the LGBT community: unmarried men convicted of homosexual contacts are punished with 100 lashes of the whip and a maximum of 1 year imprisonment; a married man convicted of the same offense shall be stoned to death. Lesbian women in Yemen are facing jail terms for up to 3 years for being intimate with each other.

Zambia: 7 years in jail for consensual sexual acts between men.

Zimbabwe: male homosexuality can be punished by various prison terms and/or fines.

This is indeed a dreadful and appalling list. Some of these laws are the inheritance of the colonial era, while others are enacted in the name of some religious ideals. Whatever their origin may be, today they exist to mistreat and torture (or even kill) innocent people who happen to be attracted to the persons of their sex. Let us hope that one day such laws will be history; a shameful and painful part of the world's history. In the meantime, however, if you or someone you know may become a victim of these vicious provisions, you should definitely seek help to preserve your rights to freedom, health, and life.

Source: State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws Prohibiting Same Sex Activity Between Consenting Adults, by Daniel Otton for ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association),

-by Ivan Savvine, Senior Paralegal @ The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal, PLLC