The topic of equal rights has been controversial and fought over for centuries, with the main group fighting for their rights shifting with new social issues. It has been over race and skin color, gender and sex, immigration and nationality, and even love and sexual orientation. With all the progress made over the years, there are still those who decide to persecute and attack those who are born differently. There are still racist people in the world, as there are still those who will judge a person based on their sexual orientation or gender.
The United States has made strides to stand up for the rights of its citizens, some parts being more welcoming than others, but areas around the world still struggle to give their citizens protection and equal rights.
As of May 2016, there are 79 countries where it is still illegal to take part in homosexual acts, or “acts against nature” as some countries refer to them as. While that is horrifying in itself, the real terror in that is the different ways you can be punished in these countries for taking part in homosexual acts. Here is a list of 15 of those countries, and the different punishments you can receive for homosexual acts there.
While the law in Tanzania, an East African country, does not specifically speak of homosexuality per se, it does mention “Acts against nature” as a severe crime. Those caught or suspected of violating this law, apparently should face a minimum prison sentence of twenty years in jail. Those caught doing something illegal in a sexual offense case could actually get life behind bars. The worst part is, you don’t actually have to commit the “crime,” you just have to be caught or seen as attempting to commit it. Makes you wonder what exactly would be considered attempting to commit an act against nature?
Tunisia is another country located in Africa, this time in the Northern part however. In Tunisia, the double standard between Gay men and women is disgustingly obvious. It is legal for women to take part in same sex activity, but for men they can face criminal charges. With these charges, men caught taking part in sexual acts with other men may face up to three years behind bars. In some cases, the men may even be charged with sodomy for sexual acts. In 2013 a Tunisian opposition party leader was caught having sex with a man and charged with sodomy, some believed for propaganda.
Turkmenistan is located in Central Asia by Afghanistan. Turkmenistan shines a bright light on that same double standard, again having same sex acts between women labeled “OK” by the government, while men caught performing homosexual acts can be charged with sodomy. Their anti-sodomy law was last updated in the late nineties and can leave men behind bars for a couple of years. While a few Asian countries have laws against homosexuality, the double standard for men and women here, earn Turkmenistan a spot on our list. It really makes you wonder what exactly you would have to do to break that law.
Uganda, another East African country, makes it onto our list at number twelve, with one of the harshest environments for the LGBTI community. While some people in the country are actually pushing for harsher penalties against homosexual acts, right now you can face fourteen years in jail. Some cases amazingly result in lifetime sentences. With these already harsh sentences, activists against equal rights are actually pushing for a bill to impose harsher penalties, possibly even death sentences, to those caught in the act. The most heartbreaking thing about this, is that some countries have already passed laws like that into effect.
We take our list now to South Africa as we look at Angola. While they did just ratify a new constitution within this decade that acknowledges the equal rights of their citizens, their laws still have some peculiar wording to penalize homosexual acts, or “acts against nature” as they call them. People caught taking part in homosexual acts, or even cross-dressing, can be sentenced to jail, as well as a hefty fine. And if you’re a repeat offender? Well you can face not only those, but also a sentencing to a forced labor camp if you don’t learn your lesson.
While Jamaica is a popular vacation destination for American travelers, they are not as welcoming to the LGBTI community as they are to tourists unfortunately. Jamaican law refers to “buggery” as a crime punishable with 10 years behind bars in some cases. In fact, in Montego Bay in 2013 a teenager was caught cross-dressing at a street party and was violently beaten and murdered for it. Sadly, this type of reaction is not unique to Jamaica, or even to countries where homosexuality is illegal. They just have a law still to openly back those against it in their country.
Another East African country, Kenya, makes our list at number nine on the countdown. They have multiple sections in their penal code that label “gross indecency,” homosexual acts, or “carnal knowledge,” as felonies, whether committed in public or private, and say that they are punishable by law. Anyone caught taking part in certain sexual acts with someone of the same sex, could face between five and 21 years in jail for their act. You can even face charges for attempting to convince someone to commit homosexual acts with you. If you are suspected of being gay in Kenya, you can even be put through a forced anal examination to prove it, which many activists are referring to as inhumane and possibly torture.
While being gay in Egypt is not technically illegal, the country has a lot of laws regarding sexual conduct that are punishable by law if broken by citizens. A lot of these sexual conduct laws can be applied to homosexual acts, and sadly police raids and arrests are not uncommon. There have been instances of groups of men being charged with acts of debauchery, otherwise known as “extreme indulgence in sensuality.” Basically they got arrested for having a consensual orgy. So while Egypt has not specifically banned homosexual acts, they have laws they can hide beside to persecute them if they please.
7 South Sudan
While South Sudan just recently gained its independence from Sudan, the laws and penalties under the penal code seem to follow Sudan pretty closely when it comes to homosexuality. Labeled specifically as sodomy, it is banned in the country and punishable by law. Those who break the law can face up to ten years in prison. However, it goes even further than jail time. Visas can be denied to those who are believed to be entering the country for the purpose of homosexuality or lesbianism. Those in South Sudan who violate the law may also face a fine, while in Sudan you could even be killed.
Sharia law is still present in parts of Nigeria in Africa. While the double standard is not as black and white here, it is still present. For homosexual acts in some states, women may receive whippings or jail time while men can be punishable by death. In other states, you may still face jail time for taking part in, or a slightly lighter jail sentence for even attempting to take part in, homosexual acts. Nigerians are also banned from joining clubs or organizations that support or encourage gay rights, possibly getting ten years behind bars if they ignore this law.
Yemen has a very specific and disturbing penal code as far as gay rights go, especially when you take into account the added double standard. Two different articles in their law define the exact homosexual acts and punishments based on gender and situation. Homosexuality between men, or anal penetration, is punishable by prison time or whipping if they’re unmarried, or death by stoning for married men. Homosexual acts between women, or “stimulation by rubbing,” is punishable with up to three years of jail time if it is premeditated, or up to seven years for the offender if the offense was done “under duress.”
Another disturbing punishment for homosexual acts is found in Mauritania, an African country. Muslim men are specifically called out and mentioned in their penal code, which explains that those caught taking part in an “act against nature” with someone of the same sex can be punishable by the death penalty. Even more terrifying- they list the death penalty specifically to be one by public stoning. I guess this way anyone in the area who may be considering acting on their feelings can see the brutal punishment you receive. Sadly, this is just one of multiple African countries where the death penalty is involved.
3 United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, otherwise known as the UAE, is another country with horrifying punishments against same sex acts. They also charge those caught committing homosexual acts to death, typically committing their execution in the form of a beheading. There have been cases of lesbians in Bulgaria and Lebanon actually being deported after spending a month in prison. You might ask - What did they do to earn their punishment? They were charged with unnatural hugs and kisses in public. How do you exactly tell the difference between and natural or unnatural hug? I wonder if their penal code specifically descries a “Gay” or “Straight” hug?
Anti-gay laws in Iran can vary quite dramatically depending on the situation. You can be charged for kissing someone of the same sex in public, for which you may be punished with up to sixty lashes of the whip. Then, if you are found guilty or caught in a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex, you can receive the death penalty for your acts. In 2005, two young boys were killed after being accused of partaking in homosexual acts. They were executed even amongst many letters and protests from different nations and activists condemning the harsh sentence.
1 Saudi Arabia
The country of Saudi Arabia takes the top spot in our countdown for countries where homosexuality is considered illegal. While technically the country condemns violators of their anti-gay laws to death, like many other countries, they have had a few very public executions thanks to the internet. This includes one in 2000 where someone was publicly beheaded with a sword. Being publicly punished with stoning and whipping are both written in as anti-gay punishments in the country as well. With the rise of the internet and social media, authorities are now even calling for punishment for those who come out online.