Of the 196 countries that exist in the world right now, only 23 of them fully recognise homosexuality and practices same-sex marriage and adoption rights, and around 20 have transgender or transsexual rights in their legislation.
If that number sounds satisfactory to you, here is another piece of information. In around 72 countries in the world, homosexuality is still illegal, a dozen where it can lead to imprisonment and about eight nations where it is punished with death penalty.
All the other countries on that list are either trying their best to keep the LGBT community suppressed and discriminated, or are being silent and doing nothing to make the situation any better.
Like the great South African anti-apartheid social activist Desmond Tutu said:
“If you are neutral on situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
But the silver lining is, the situation is better than what it was in the last millennium. Since 2000, a whole lot of countries have taken small or big steps towards the right of homosexuals and transgender people. Almost all of them are from Europe and America. The continents of Asia and Africa are still way behind in this aspect, and almost none of the countries have adopted any measure to change that.
In some countries like Russia, a step is being taken backward. In a time when most of Europe are ticking all the right boxes where LGBT rights are concerned, Russian president Putin introduced a series of statutes in 2013 at a federal level, together called the ‘gay propaganda law’ banning “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships”. The decision was rebuked by the European Court of Human Rights.
In India, homosexuality was re-criminalised 2013 after being struck down few years back, which creates an ironical situation because it makes a completely innocent person first a criminal, and then not one for few years, and then again an offender of law overnight.
But some countries are there which have kept our hopes high.
France is probably the first country to decriminalise sodomy way back in 1791 during the French Revolution. It was always one of the most gay and trans-friendly countries, banning sexuality and gender based discrimination in 1985, allowing legal gender change since 2009 and same-sex marriage since 2013. France also became the first country to delist transgenderism as a mental illness.
The Netherlands became the first country to allow same-sex marriage in 2001, allowing domestic partnerships since 1998. Same-sex relationships were legalised when France invaded the country in 1811 and established Napoleonic code. The Equal Rights Law, enacted in 1994, bans discrimination on sexual orientation on the grounds of employment, housing, public accommodations, and more.
The Scandinavian countries are not only considered to be the most liberal ones in the world, but their ranks in the Human Development Index have also remain among the top few over the years. So they must be doing something right. All the neighbours – Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland have all their boxes ticked. While homosexuality, legal partnerships, anti-discriminatory laws and delisting from mental illness were mostly done in the previous millennium, since 2000 all the countries have legalised same-sex marriage, trans-rights and adoption and other methods of having a child like IVF and surrogacy for same-sex couples.
Spain is once again one of the most liberal and free-spirited, colourful countries, and has been recognised for providing highest degree of equality to its LGBT citizens. Spain regulated anti-discriminatory laws and recognised partnerships since 1996-97. In 2005, Spain became the third country to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption, and a couple of other rights like serving in the military and donate blood; and in 2007, allowed transgenders a legal status without undergoing any medical surgery or examination. Spain also sees many gay festivals and pride walks attended in huge numbers.
Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal, Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom are the other European countries that recognise all or some of the LGBT rights. Germany is on its way to be enlisted in the same.
In Africa, post-apartheid South Africa is the only country to recognise and practice LGBT rights. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005. In Asia-Pacific, except for New Zealand and Australia (under progress), no other country seems to be safe for LGBT people. We know how the situation is in our Subcontinent, and it is even worse in further west, where Sharia Law calls for capital punishment for the said “crime”.
Lastly, in America, the whole of north and Brazil and Argentina from the south recognises more or less all of the LGBT rights. Canada is a front-runner in this cause. Their human rights law was modified to fit in a rule on gay-discrimination in 1996 and allows same-sex marriage since 2005. Their current president Justin Trudeau wins heart every other day by speaking up for the LGBT community, walking in the parades and so on. Mexico allows marriages in certain jurisdictions but recognises it in all.
The whole world, especially the virtual world in the form of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram went crazy when Barrack Obama announced same-sex marriages legal all over USA in 2013. The rainbow filters on display pictures went viral. The POTUS wrote on his twitter:
“No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding hands with the person they love.”