LGBT rights across the world: Progress achieved in 50 years

Fifty years since the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, which sparked an LGBT liberation movement in the U.S. and elsewhere, 36% of countries are yet to decriminalise homosexuality. In other words, same-sex sexual acts remain a criminal offense in 71 conutries. In 6% of countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.

In a report titled ‘State-Sponsored Homophobia’, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) noted that India, Angola and Trinidad & Tobago are the latest to decriminalise homosexuality. The data presented in the report is based on national laws pertaining to homosexuality, as of March 2019.


In countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence, the maximum penalty ranges from a few years in jail to life imprisonment or even death penalty. Homosexuality is punishable by death in 11 countries. In 27 of the 71 countries where homosexuality is illegal, it is a criminal offence only for men.

Marriage and adoption

Decriminalising homosexuality is only the first step. Despite homosexuality being legal in 128 countries, it is possible for same-sex couples to marry or adopt only in a few of them. For instance, South Africa is the only African country which recognises same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. While it is same-sex marriages are legal in Mexico, their adoption rights are not recognised.

As of March 2019, no Asian country recognised same-sex marriage. However, this changed in May 2019 when Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage. Israel recognises adoption by same-sex couples. Even though homosexuality is legal in all European countries, marriage between same-sex couples and adoption is recognised in only a few of them.


Protected by law

Apart from legalising homosexuality, some countries provide certain protections. As many as 77 countries provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment. In Brazil, Ecuador and Malta, the psuedo-scientific practice of conversion therapy, which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation, is banned.

India decriminalised homosexuality in September 2018 when the Supreme Court read down Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). But there is more work to be done in terms of recognising the marriage of and adoption by same-sex couples.


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