Recent International Developments on the Criminalization of Sexual Orientation

Around the world, millions of individuals live with the possibility of being criminally prosecuted for engaging in same-sex relationships. [1] Currently, seventy-two states criminalize same-sex relationships, including eight which impose the death penalty for engaging in such relationships. [2] These countries are mostly concentrated in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. [3] Many proponents of the death penalty justify its use with Sharia law. [4] [5] For example, under Sharia law in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexuality is still punishable by death. [6] [7] In Syria and Iraq, paramilitary forces including the Islamic state carry out the death penalty. [8] Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community face not only legal repercussions stemming from their sexual orientation, but also societal discrimination because of these laws. [9] [10] The criminalization of same-sex relationships derives from a cultural fallacy that LGBTQ+ individuals are “immoral”; as such, these individuals are at a heightened risk of violence within their communities. [11]

The criminalization of homosexual activity proliferated in 2017. For example, Indonesia had its first public flogging for homosexual activity. [12] Additionally, Guyana canceled a referendum vote on the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. [13] Thus, in places such as Indonesia and Guyana, LGBTQ+ individuals are denied basic human rights and continue to suffer discrimination and violence. [14]

Despite these negative developments, the past year also saw the international community and many individual states promoting LGBTQ+ rights through international relations, legislation, and the judicial system. For instance, in September 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the imposition of the death penalty to sanction same-sex relationships. [15] Additionally, on January 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of India announced that it would revisit its 2013 decision to reinstate section 377 of India’s Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct. [16] [17] This law was previously declared unconstitutional by the Indian Supreme Court in 2009. [18] While there has been significant progress internationally in securing rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in same-sex relationships, many legal battles remain.

This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.