Laws concerning homosexuals & bisexuals
Absence of past global conventions.
History of homophobia in ex-colonies.
Lack of past global conventions:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
was written in 1948. It
attempts to protect all people of the world from discrimination on the basis of their "race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin,
property, birth or other status." However, sexual
orientation and gender identity were not
Just as human slavery was regarded as a normal part of the culture in many
countries during the early 19th century, the denigration, oppression and
imprisonment of homosexuals was regarded as normal in 1948. In many areas of the
world, attitudes towards homosexuals and transgender people have radically
improved. Yet, as the 60th anniversary of the UDHR passed in 2008, the document
had never been expanded to include these sexual minorities.
According to Peter Tatchell of the Guardian (UK) newspaper in late 2008:
||No international declaration or convention existed to protect the rights of
||The right to physically love the person of one's choice was nowhere
enshrined in any global humanitarian law.
||No convention recognized GLBT sexual rights as human rights.
||None offers explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual
orientation or gender identity.
||The United Nations general assembly had never considered LGBT rights.
||Eighty-six countries, which comprise almost half of the nations on Earth,
still criminalize gay male behavior.
||A smaller number also criminalize lesbian behavior.
||Possible sentences upon conviction range from a few years in jail to life
imprisonment for most of these countries.
Among the 86 countries, seven predominately Muslim countries and areas -- Saudi Arabia,
Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen and parts of Nigeria and Pakistan -- invoke the
death penalty. 1See a world map
Less obvious than these sentences and executions is the the threat of
violence under which LGBT persons live. After all, if one's government and one's
sexual minorities to be second class citizens -- or even sub-human -- there is little
motivation for ordinary citizens to treat them as individuals worthy of respect.
History of homophobia in many Asian and African countries:
Many of the 86 countries that currently criminalize same-sex behavior in are in Asia and Africa. Prior to European
colonialism, many had very low levels of homophobia. "...same-sex relations were
variously tolerated, accepted and even venerated." 1 However, the colonizing European
powers exported their homophobia with the support of their Christian churches
and missionaries. Tatchell comments:
"This importation of western homophobia happened in countries like Ghana,
Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda, which now absurdly decry homosexuality as a
'white man's disease' and 'unAfrican,' while vehemently denying and
suppressing all knowledge of their own pre-colonial era indigenous
During the discussion at the UN General Assembly on a resolution promoting
the decriminalization of homosexual activity during 2008-DEC, Navanethem
Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said that just
like apartheid laws that criminalized sexual relations between different
races, laws against homosexuality "... are increasingly becoming recognized as
anachronistic and as inconsistent both with international law and with
traditional values of dignity, inclusion and respect for all."
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
Peter Tatchell, "A watershed for gay rights," Guardian (UK), 2008-DEC-08,
"In a first, gay rights are pressed at the UN," WorldPress.com, 2008-DEC-19, at:
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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Original posting: 2009-FEB-13
Latest update: 2009-FEB-16
Author: B.A. Robinson