On this, the 2010 International Day Against Homophobia, a shocking handful of nations still impose the death penalty on LGBT people, but one sixth of the world’s population is a little freer.

This according to ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, which has published the fourth edition of its report on State Sponsored Homophobia, as well as accompanying maps depicting the offending nations and territories.

Based on research by Daniel Ottosson, the report finds that 76 out of 242 countries around the world still consider homosexuality illegal, and five of them punish homosexual acts with death. Many more do not recognise same-sex relationships or do not offer LGBT people protection from discrimination.

“Compared to last year’s report, where we listed 77 countries prosecuting people on ground of their sexual orientation, this year you will find ‘only’ 76 in the same list,” said Gloria Careaga, Co-secretary General of ILGA.

“One country less compared to the 2009 list may seem little progress, until one realises that it hosts one sixth of the human population, as the country in question is India,” she said.

In July last year, the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised homosexuality as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, violated the fundamental right to life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The county has a population of almost 1,2 billion people.

The law had been enacted by Britain in 1860 when it ruled India as a colony. In fact, many laws criminalising homosexuality were put in place by the former colonial masters of now independent countries.

“Naming and shaming homophobic countries is essential but it is also important to recognise countries where progress is being made,” said Renato Sabbadini, Co-secretary General of ILGA.

“This year we are happy to see the Federal District of Mexico City and Argentina joining the community of states and local authorities recognising equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.”

“Africa bears the brunt of state-sponsored homophobia with 38 countries punishing homosexuality…”

Five countries continue to have laws on their statute books that include the death sentence as a penalty for people who do not conform to the heterosexual standard. These are Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, plus some parts of Nigeria and Somalia.

A proposed bill, which would impose the death penalty on “aggravated homosexuality”, including repeat “offenders”, in Uganda would increase this list to six nations, should the legislation be passed.

Africa bears the brunt of state-sponsored homophobia with 38 countries punishing homosexuality with imprisonment while South Africa remains the only country on the continent to have enacted same-sex marriage rights.

The report notes that religious and cultural homophobia contribute to state sponsored homophobia, pointing out that anti-gay legislation is often supported by African religious and cultural leaders who see homosexuality as “unbiblical” and “unAfrican.”

“The most worrying aspect of the Ugandan issue… is that it has confirmed the existence of a network of fundamentalist churches strongly committed to the criminalisation of LGBTI people wherever possible,” says the report.

ILGA, a world-wide network of national and local groups dedicated to achieving equal rights for LGBT people, said that the aim of the report is to name and shame the States which at the end of the first decade of the 21st century still treat their LGBTI citizens like lesser persons, unworthy of consideration.

“The unworthiness rests entirely on these States, for theirs is the shame of depriving a significant number of their citizens of dignity, respect and the enjoyment of equal rights,” said the organisation.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia is marked every year on May 17 to honour the day that homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation in 1992.

  • Click here to download the State Sponsored Homophobia map of the world.
  • Click here to download the State Sponsored Homophobia map of Africa.

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