Laws regarding the LGBT
of North America
Countries specifying the death penalty for same-sex behavior:
The eight countries that execute sexually-active gays and lesbians --
Bahrain, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates,
Yemen, and part of Nigeria -- are all predominately Muslim. They derive their laws from a combination of Muslim Sharia law and
the country's culture. The laws are unlikely to change anytime soon, unless
democracy, an independent judiciary, increased concern for human rights, and accurate knowledge of the cause of sexual orientation emerges.
In the case of Nigeria, the death penalty is imposed in the northern, predominately Muslim,
area of the country. Long jail sentences are imposed in the southern, Christian,
area of the country.
Countries that were formerly British colonies:
Many countries that were formerly colonies of Britain incorporated an anti-sodomy
law into their legal code. These included:
Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.
is typical of these countries. Section 377 of their penal code dates from 1861.
Now 148 years old, it still criminalizes "carnal intercourse against the
order of nature." The law was placed on the books long before scientists
established that same-sex sexual behavior is natural; all mammals engage in it,
as well as many other animals.
Other countries inherited the same British law, but
have since decriminalized private same-sex activities between
adults. These include Australia, Canada, Fiji, Hong Kong and New
Zealand. Canada has since gone much further towards establishing equal rights for all.
made marriage available in mid-2005 to all
loving, committed couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex.
Belize was also once a British colony: "British Honduras." On 2016-AUG-10, their Supreme Court declared, as unconstitutional, a law which had criminalized homosexuality
2009-JUL-02: New Delhi, India: Same-sex behavior decriminalized:
The New Delhi High Court issued a 105 page judgment, ruling stating
that the 148-year-old law prohibiting consensual same-sex sexual acts by adults
was: discriminatory, a "violation of fundamental rights," and thus
unconstitutional. It carries a jail sentence of up to ten years.
Although the ruling only applies to India's capital city, the government of
India is expected either to appeal the decision to the country's Supreme
Court, or to repeal the 1861 law -- Section 377 of India's penal code.
2016-AUG-10: Additional countries have decriminalized same-gender sexual behavior:
So far in 2016, three additional countries have decriminalized homosexual activity:
- Seychelles in 2016-MAY; located East of Africa and just south of the Equator.
- Nauru in 2016-MAY; located almost on the equator, east of Papua New Guinea.
- Colombia in 2016-APR; located in the northwest corner of South America.
2019-JUN-18: Iceland passed transgender law:
The Parliament passed a law that expands the rights of transgender persons and recognizes non-binary people -- those who do not identify themselves as either male or female. The vote was 45 in favor, 0 opposed, and three abstentions.
Non-binary transgender persons will be able to register with a third gender option: "X."
Owl Fisher, a Icelandic transgender activist and chair of Trans Iceland who helped write the new law. He was quoted in the Guardian that the new law:
"... has the potential to make Iceland the world leader on LGBTI rights."
“Iceland has just passed one of the most progressive laws on trans and intersex rights without any public conflict,” they said.
The law was also supported by Amnesty International, Children’s Protection Services and the Women’s Rights Organisation of Iceland. 5
This image is provided for general information only. If you are considering
travel to another country we strongly recommend that you obtain up-to-date
information on the status of protection/recognition/persecution laws in that
country. Laws change frequently.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "LGTBI rights in the world." International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), 2008-MAY, at:
- "New Delhi court overturns gay sex ban," The Dallas Morning News, 2009-JUL-03, at:
- "New Delhi Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality," NPR, 2009-JUL-02, at:
- Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Belize Supreme Court strikes down law criminalizing homosexuality," Pink News, 2016-AUG-10, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- Vic Parsons, "Iceland adds third gender option and strengthens trans rights in unanimous vote," Pink News, 2019-JUN-25, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
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Original posting: 2009-JUL-03
Latest update: 2019-JUN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson