Ten countries on three continents have legalised same-sex marriage in the past decade, but discrimination persists, even in those countries, says Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based organisation noted that this coming month will mark the first ever legal same-sex marriages which took place in the Netherlands on April 1, 2001.

“The fact that same-sex marriage has been legalised on three continents demonstrates progress in equality,” said Boris O. Dittrich, acting director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

“However, while the right to same-sex marriage may be viewed as the last step in ending discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, legalisation does not end discrimination, either by officials or other people.”

Since 2001, following the pioneer example of the Netherlands, same-sex marriage has been adopted by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), and Argentina (2010).

Since 2010, same-sex marriage has been legal in Mexico City’s Federal District, and it is recognised by all other Mexican states. Several states within the US also recognise same-sex marriage.

“It is inevitable that more nations that are open to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity will follow these 10 countries,” Dittrich said. “The trend to legalise same-sex marriage is unstoppable.”

Countries where the judicial, political, or legal process of recognising same-sex marriage has begun, include Nepal, Slovenia, and Australia. Some countries, in a positive step, have also recognized same-sex marriages performed by foreign jurisdictions, including Israel, New Zealand, Mexico, and some states in the US, Human Rights Watch said.

Many other countries have legislation that recognises same-sex relationships in the form of civil unions or registered partnerships. In these cases, people in same-sex relationships have many of the same rights as married couples. However, civil marriage in these countries is reserved for different sex couples and not open to same-sex couples.

A survey by Human Rights Watch of LGBT rights groups in the 10 countries where same-sex marriage is legal of what they hope to achieve over the next five to ten years found varied priorities but some common ground.

“In most of the countries, the right of transgender people to be recognised before the law without having to undergo non-reversible sterilisation is a high priority,” Dittrich said.

“Combating homophobia and transphobia among young people within the educational system is another, and ending violence and aggression by private individuals, from families to strangers on the street, is a common denominator,” he added.

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