Fifty years after homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales, 72 other countries and territories worldwide continue to criminalise same-sex relationships, including 45 in which sexual relationships between women are outlawed.
There are eight countries in which homosexuality can result in a death penalty, and dozens more in which homosexual acts can result in a prison sentence, according to an annual report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Southern and east Africa, the Middle East and south Asia persist with the most draconian approaches. Western Europe and the western hemisphere are the most tolerant.
But Britain was by no means a frontrunner when it moved 50 years ago to partly decriminalise homosexuality. Some 20 other countries had already led the way, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina, all of whom had legalised it well before 1900.
In Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexuality is still punishable by death, under sharia law. The same applies in parts of Somalia and northern Nigeria. In two other countries – Syria and Iraq – the death penalty is carried out by non-state actors, including Islamic State.
The report notes that, although the potential exists for a death penalty to be handed down under sharia courts in at least five other countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, the UAE, Qatar and Mauritania – there is no evidence suggesting that it has been implemented for consensual same-sex acts between adults in private.
Same-sex relations – which are variously criminalised under laws covering sodomy, buggery and “acts against nature” among others – could lead to a prison sentence in 71 states in all.
However, this number excludes Egypt, where same-sex relations are technically legal but are vigorously pursued and where hundreds of people are reported to be detained on morality grounds.
Altogether, more than 120 countries have decriminalised…