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LGBTQ+  Rights Across the Globe


Anežka Turek

CW: homophobia and transphobia.

Noted UK politicians, institutions and companies came out to ‘show their support’ during pride month. How do we reconcile this with the repeated attacks we’ve seen against trans and non-binary people in the past year?

Pride month is a time for celebrating diversity and queer culture, elevating the voices of the underrepresented and acknowledging how far we have come in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

But as this last year has shown, progress isn’t always permanent. In the UK currently, the most marginalised within the LGBTQ+, most predominantly trans+ and non-binary people, have been subjected to media hostility, violence and threats to their human rights.

Discrimination against trans people has been particularly widespread within the public and healthcare sector. MPs are currently debating changes to the Equality Act 2010, which could threaten to roll back on the hard-won rights by those in the LGBTQ+ community. These proposed changes could make it harder for transgender individuals to access the facilities that align with their gender identity, in spaces such as bathrooms and changing rooms.

Photo by Heather Mount

LGBTQ+ Rights in Europe

The country with the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in Europe in 2023: Malta

Malta takes the spot for the country with the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in Europe according to ILGA Europe – (it actually ranks one of the highest in the entire world!)

In Malta, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity has been illegal nationwide since 2004.

Alongside this, for trans+ and intersex people in Malta have been ranked one of the highest in the world due to the country’s Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act. This act permits trans+ people to change their legal gender without medical intervention. Our client Ruth Baldaccino, who worked at the Maltese Ministry for Civil Liberties, played an instrumental role in bringing this legislation to life.

In 2016, the island made history for being the first European country to outlaw conversion therapy – something still legal in the UK.

Same-sex marriage has also been legal in Malta since 2017. In 2019, a poll from the Eurobarometer series found that 67% of Maltese supported same-sex marriage, a significant increase from a decade ago, and 73% believed LGBTQ+ people should be given the same rights as heterosexual people.

landscape photo of valetta, the old city, in reds and blues

Photo of Valetta, the capital city of Malta

The country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in Europe: Azerbaijan 

According to ILGA Europe, for the last 8 years running Azerbaijan has been the country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in Europe, followed closely by Turkey and Russia.

In Azerbaijan, there is no legislation to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Same-sex marriages, and civil unions, partnerships and adoptions by same-sex couples are not legal either.

Alongside this, there is no legislation in Azerbaijan that enables transgender people to legally have their gender recognised on official documents such as passports.

LGBTQ+ people face high rates of violence, harassment and discrimination in the country. In September 2017, at least 100 members of the LGBTQ+ community were arrested in Baku, the country’s capital. Activists reported that those arrested were subject to beatings, interrogation, forced medical examinations and blackmail.

Best and Worst Countries for Gay Rights in North America 2023

The country with the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in North America: Canada

Canadian LGBTQ+ rights are some of the most extensive in the world. In terms of safety for LGBTQ+ people, Canada was ranked first in both the Gay Travel Index of 2021, and Forbes magazine, 2019.

In 2005, Canada was the fourth country in the world, and the first in the Americas, to legalise same-sex marriage nationwide. Same sex couples are also permitted to adopt in the country.

Conversion therapy in Canada is banned nationwide under bill C-4(44-1) which was put in place on December 8th 2021, and went into effect 30 days after.

The Pew Research’s report published in 2020 showed that 85% of Canada’s general population, and 92% Canadians aged between 18-29, favoured the social acceptance of homosexuality, up from 80% in 2013.

Since 2017, Canada has also allowed their trans+ residents to change their official gender marker on official documents without requiring surgery. The Canadian federal government also allows individuals to put “X” on their passport to indicate an unspecified gender.

photo of 3 people's backs at a pride march, with rainbow flags as capes

Photo by Christian Lue

The country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in North America: Jamaica

According to Equaldex, Jamaica is the country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in North America. Jamaica has long held strongly conservative views against the LGBTQ+ community, with recent polls stating that the majority of Jamaicans are against the acceptance of homosexuality.

LGBTQ+ rights in Jamaica are extremely limited and those in the LGBTQ+ are frequently subjected to discrimination and violence.

Same-sex marriage and relationships are not legal in the country. Consensual sex between GBTQ+ men is also illegal, and punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, although this hasn’t been enforced in recent years.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, states that Jamaica has “no law which prevents discrimination against an individual on the basis of his or her or their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. There is no legislation addressing hate crimes in Jamaica.”

Being transgender or non-binary is also not legally recognised in Jamaica. For all official purposes, gender assigned at birth overrules gender identity in the country, and  trans+ people do not have the right to live as their aligned gender.

Queer Rights in South America

The country with the most rights for LGBTQ+  people in South America: Uruguay

Equaldex considers Uruguay to be the country with the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in South America. Rights for LGBTQ+ people in Uruguay actually rank as being some of the best in the entire world.

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal with an equal age of consent for almost 100 years – since 1934 to be exact. Civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been allowed since 2008, with gay marriage being legalised in 2013. It was the first Latin American country to do so.

LGBTQ+ couples have also been able to legally adopt since 2008, and Incitement of hatred on the grounds of anyone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity has been prohibited since 2003.

Uruguay was the first country to host the international LGBTQ+ rights conference in July 2016, with hundreds of politicians and activists from around the world coming together to address LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2009, a 51–2 vote in the Chamber of Representatives passed a law allowing trans+ people over the age of 18 to change their name and legal gender on official documents. Since 2018, sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy have not been legal requirements for a trans+ person to change their gender on official documents in Uruguay.

two androgynous individuals lean on one another

Photo of a Queer Couple

The worst South American country when it comes to gay rights: Guyana

Guyana is the country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in South America according to Equaldex. It is the only country in South America where same-sex relationships are still illegal and punishable by prison time. Much like in Jamaica though, this is something that hasn’t been enforced in recent years.

Same-sex marriage and civil partnerships are illegal in Guyana, and there are no discrimination policies put in place to protect LGBTQ+ people from violence and abuse. Alongside this, trans+ and non-binary people are not legally permitted to have their gender identity recognised.

In 2013, a study by CADRES with the Guyanise population  found that around 24% of its respondents ‘hate’ homosexuals, while 38% were ‘tolerant’ and 25% were ‘accepting.’

Despite the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies, Guyana held its first Pride Parade in June 2018. It was attended by various political leaders and was the first event of its kind to take place in the Caribbean.

Best and Worst Countries to be Queer in Asia

The best place to LGBTQ+ in Asia: Taiwan

Equaldex recognise LGBTQ+ rights in Taiwan as being regarded as the most progressive in Asia.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2019 and same-sex adoption has been legal since earlier this year.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity has been made illegal nationwide since 2004. LGBTQ+ discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment has also been prohibited by law since 2007.

The first Taiwan Pride was held in the country’s capital, Taipei in 2003. By 2015, it had become the second-largest LGBTQ+ pride in Asia after the event was attended by 80,000 people.

Since 2021, sex reassignment surgery and hormone therapy have not been a requirement for trans+ people to alter their gender on official documents. Alongside this, in 2020 the introduction of a third-gender option on identification documents, such as passports, came into effect in Taiwan.

Despite this, public acceptance of trans+ and non-binary people in Taiwan still has room for improvement. A 2020 survey found that 55% of transgender Taiwanese people were afraid of using a public restroom, 19% had been harassed or attacked in public, and 16% were afraid to ask a police officer for help.

picture of a rainbow flag unfurling at a pride march

The country with the poorest rights for LGBTQ+ people in Asia: Yemen

Rights for LGBTQ+ young people in Yemen are some of the worst in the world.

Homosexuality is illegal in Yemen, meaning same-sex sexual relationships, same-sex marriage, same-sex adoption and the right for trans+ and non-binary people to live as their aligned gender, is also illegal.

There are no laws or legislation put in place to prevent discrimination and hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community in Yemen.

Under Yemeni law, if a Muslim man is caught engaging in homosexual activity he can be punished with the death penalty or public lashing. Alongside this, LGBTQ+ women who engage in same-sex sexual activity can be punished with up to three years of imprisonment.

Conversion Therapy is not banned in Yemen and is practised often on LGBTQ+ people living in the country. Shockingly, the government also blocks all access to web pages that express support for LGBTQ+ rights. This policy of censorship also extends to publications and magazines in Yemen.

Being Queer in Africa

The country with the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in Africa: South Africa

Although South Africa has the most rights for LGBTQ+ people in the continent of Africa, it is arguably still not as progressive as the other countries we have highlighted from other regions. South Africa has a complex and diverse history regarding human rights, including for those who identify as LGBTQ+.

As Equaldex recognises, same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since 2006 and sexual activity between those in the LGBTQ+ community has been legal since 1998. Prior to 1998 though, same-sex sexual activity was illegal and punishable by a fine or up to two years imprisonment.

At present, there are no laws restricting the discussion or promotion of LGBTQ+ topics in South Africa, and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace and in public is illegal. Much like the UK though, Conversion Therapy is not banned in the country.

The recent alteration of the Sex Description and Sex Status Act in South Africa allows trans+ people to apply to have their sex status altered in the population registry. This act allows trans+ people to receive official documents that indicate their correct gender identity.

Despite this, the law states that trans+ people must undergo some form of gender reassignment surgery before having their sex status altered. This includes medical interventions and hormone therapy.

The worst country in Africa for gay rights: Somalia

Much like in Yemen, same-sex sexual activity in Somalia is banned and punishable by imprisonment or the death penalty. Same-sex marriages and relationships of any sort in fact are illegal.

The Somali Penal Code, published in 1973, mentions that people who engage in sexual intercourse with a partner of the same-sex risk being imprisoned for up to 3 years. In some Southern regions of Somalia homosexuality is punishable by death. Vigilante Executions, beatings and, torture are also frequent in the country.

Trans+ and non-binary people are not legally recognised in Somalia, and there is no legal way for the trans+ community to live as their aligned gender in the country.

LGBTQ+ people in Somalia are regularly prosecuted by the government and face stigmatisation by the broader population. There is no legislation put in place to prevent LGBTQ+ people from facing discrimination or abuse. Conversion therapy is also legal and widely practised in the country.

black and white photo of two men in suits after getting marries

Photo by Maico Pereira

Gay Rights in Oceania

The country with the best LGBTQ+ rights in Oceania: Australia

In Australia, rights for LGBTQ+ people have advanced rapidly in the last decade.

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Australia since 1997 and same-sex marriage became legal 20 years later in 2017. Same-sex couples have also been permitted to adopt since 2018.

For the trans+ community, the right to change the gender marker on official documents is legal, but requirements vary by region. Most states don’t allow you to change your gender marker more than once in a 12-month period and some require the person applying to have undergone hormone therapy.

Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace and housing sector and public is illegal in Australia. Conversion therapy is also banned in three of its major states, Canberra, Queensland and Victoria.

A YouGov poll conducted in 2020 found that 78% of Australians agree trans+ people deserve the same rights and protections as cis people. The country also legally recognises nonbinary gender identities and offers the option of an X marker on legal documentation.

With its long history of LGBTQ+ activism and annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival, Sydney has often been recognised as being one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly cities in the world.

The country with the least LGBTQ+ rights in Oceania: Solomon Islands

Equaldex recognises the Solomon Islands, which consists of six major islands and more than 900 smaller islands, as being the country with the least rights for LGBTQ+ people in Oceania.

Same-sex sexual activity between men is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment, but this law hasn’t been enforced in recent years. Same-sex sexual relationships between women is not recognised within this legislation.

The Solomon Islands do not recognise same-sex relationships in any form. As a result, same-sex marriages are not legal. Changes to this law were considered in 2008 but were quickly rejected after mass opposition by policy members and the general public.

There are also no anti-discrimination laws put in place to protect the LGBTQ+ community from violence or abuse in the Solomon Islands. Trans+ and non-binary identities are also not recognised and there is no legal process for individuals to update their gender markers on legal documents.

It is advised that LGBTQ+ travellers avoid engaging in any form of public affection, such as holding hands. Displaying these behaviours could result in prosecution under the Solomon Islands Penal Code, which recognises these acts as a form of gross indecency, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment.

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