23 Jul

Map of the Week: Global Sexual Orientation Laws

Map by International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World). Click on the map to expand.

By Conor White

The American Geographical Society and our EthicalGEO Initiative’s Location Tech Task Force is convening a series of Blue-Ribbon Panels and Leadership Spotlights examining the ethical implications of mobile location technology in the era of COVID-19 and beyond. The first of these panels focused on the impact that new technologies and policies are having on vulnerable communities around the world. One of the panelists was Mr. Mark Bromley, who helped to launch the Council for Global Equality to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on international LGBT+ human rights concerns. This map by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA World) depicts the concerns that Mr. Bromley shared on the panel in terms of the protection of LGBT+ people, especially in current times, where contact tracing and location tracking is more prominent than ever, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

ILGA World is a global federation of more than 1,600 organizations from over 150 countries, whose goal is to promote a world where the human rights of all are respected, irrespective of people’s sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions or sex characteristics, and where everyone can live in equality and freedom. There is a long way still to go in achieving this goal, as it is currently illegal to be LGBT+ in 70 countries. The map shows that only 65% of those living in UN countries can currently be in legal, consensual, same-sex relationships. LGBT+ people are being killed in 12 countries around the world, where the death penalty is used against consensual same-sex relations between adults, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan. Some countries’ laws, including Afghanistan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, provide for the use of the death penalty, but there is little evidence of its use, although other prosecutions are implemented.

This map is featured in a recent ILGA report by Lucas Ramón Mendos, ‘State-Sponsored Homophobia: Global Legislation Overview Update’, about the legal status of being LGBT+ around the globe. The report shows that despite some countries becoming more progressive and liberal with their laws, large parts of the world remain without fundamental rights in employment, marriage, adoption, and in the prevention of crimes. Some of the more recent legal developments around the world include the provision of civil partnerships in Monaco, marriage equality in Costa Rica, and protection against discrimination in employment in the United States. On the other hand, North Macedonia has repealed the antidiscrimination law against LGBT+ people.

It is reasons like the recently repealed law in North Macedonia that LGBT+ rights in the EU and across the globe are currently in recession. In recent days, Poland’s incumbent president, Andrzej Duda, won another term in office after speaking out against LGBT+ rights on the campaign trail. A recent European Union Agency for  Fundamental Rights report finds that six in ten members of the LGBT+ community are scared to hold hands in public due to the threat of harassment and attack. The European Commission’s Helena Dalli recently talked about witnessing an increase in anti-LGBT+ incidents in the European Union including attacks on pride parades, the adoption of LGBT+ ideology-free zones, as well as fines for LGBT-friendly advertisements. The city of Nieuwegein in the Netherlands has severed ties with its sister city, Pulawy in Poland, after the latter declared itself an ‘LGBT-free zone’.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric, especially in those countries that are persecuting members of the LGBT+ community. As mentioned in our Blue-Ribbon Panel, Vulnerable Publics: International Perspectives, governments need to ensure that the current health and economic crises are not used as an excuse to undermine LGBT+ rights.