Seven striking statistics on the status of gay rights and homophobia across the globe

An activist's silhouette is seen through a rainbow flag during a gay pride parade in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2013.
An activist’s silhouette is seen through a rainbow flag during a gay pride parade in Kiev, Ukraine, in 2013.
(Sergei Supinsky / AFP/Getty Images)

The majority of countries now allow sexual activity between consenting adults of the same gender, and the legal recognition of same-sex marriage is slowly spreading along with laws to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, according to a report published Monday.

At the same time, persecution and stigmatization remain rampant in most countries, and equal rights for LGBTQ people are “still very far from reach,” said the report released by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assn.

To produce the report, “State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalization, Protection and Recognition,” researchers compiled data from a variety of sources on laws dealing with sexual orientation.

“We’re definitely seeing some really valuable progress to the lives of LGBTI people, but there are many threats emerging,” said Aengus Carroll, an Ireland-based human rights consultant and researcher who co-authored the report with Argentine human rights lawyer Lucas Ramon Mendos.

The threats include morality laws and other discriminatory legislation, as well as crackdowns on free expression about sexual orientation, Carroll said.

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community participate in a Pride March in Bangalore, India. (Aijaz Rahi / Associated Press)
(Aijaz Rahi / Associated Press)

Here we present seven of the most telling numbers in the report.


The number of countries that allow homosexual acts between consenting adults. Taiwan and Kosovo, which are not internationally recognized as independent states, bring the number to 124. Last year, Belize and the Seychelles became the latest nations to repeal laws criminalizing such activity.


The number of countries that outlaw it. The figure is down from 75 nations since May 2016. In 27 of the countries, the laws apply only to men. In the rest, they apply to men and women. A third of the countries — or 24 — with such laws are in Africa.

In Uganda, men suspected of being gay are sometimes subjected to forced anal exams to “prove” their homosexuality, according to a report last year by Human Rights Watch.

In some Muslim nations, moral interpretations of sharia law make homosexual acts illegal, “and individuals are then prosecuted under the regular penal code for debauchery, scandalous acts or the like,” Carroll said.

Egypt is included in the categories of countries that both allow and outlaw same-sex sexual activities. That’s because, although the Middle Eastern nation does not officially have such laws on the books (such activity is generally classified as debauchery, indecency, scandalous acts or propagation), the state is “one of the most hostile places on Earth for sexual diversity,” Carroll said. “Public expression regarding sexual diversity is also criminalized, and online activity is heavily policed.”

Hundreds of gay people have been jailed in Egypt, according to Erasing 76 Crimes, a blog that focuses on the human toll of laws hostile to LGBTQ people and the struggle to repeal them.

A man at the third annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride celebrations in Entebbe, Uganda, in 2014. (Rebecca Vassie / Associated Press)
(Rebecca Vassie / AP)


The number of countries that allow same-sex couples to adopt children that are not biological offspring of one of the partners. In the last year, Austria, Finland and part of Australia have passed such laws.

The United States allows adoption by gay couples. But this month, the Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with families that go against their religious beliefs, including gay couples.

The bill would need approval from the state Senate and the governor’s signature to become law.

“The energy of the Trump era is very much opening the gateways for this kind of very regressive discourse,” Carroll said.

Greg Roling, center, and Larry Sandal take a stroll with their 9-month-old adopted daughter, Emmersyn Julia Roling, in Sioux Falls, S.D., in April 2017. (Jay Pickthorn / Associated Press)
(Jay Pickthorn / AP)


The number of countries where it is forbidden to form, establish or register a nongovernmental organization that focus on issues related to sexual orientation or LGBTQ rights. Almost two dozen other countries have laws aimed at curtailing public expression and promotion of being LGBTQ through social media or other means.

Russia, for example, outlaws what it calls “the promotion of nontraditional values to minors,” Carroll said.

A recent increase in arrests and killings of gay men in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya has reportedly prompted many people to delete their online social media accounts for fear of persecution.

Last month, Amnesty International called for “urgent action” after reports of mass abductions and torture of gay men there.

Russian gay rights activists take part in a rally in central Moscow on May 6, 2017. (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images)


The number of countries that allow same-sex marriage. It includes the United States, where in 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that it was a right. Laws permitting such unions were enacted in Finland this year. An additional 28 nations, as well as Taiwan, recognize some sort of civil partnership.

People march in the Rainbow Pride parade in Tokyo on May 7, 2017. (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP/Getty Images)
(KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP/Getty Images)


The number of countries, including Kosovo, that specifically mention sexual orientation in their constitution as grounds for protection against discrimination. Meanwhile, 72 countries have laws that forbid discrimination in the workplace due to a person’s sexual orientation, and 86 have national human rights institutions that include sexual orientation in the issues they handle.


The number of United Nations member states where a person can be put to death for participating in consensual sexual activity with someone of the same sex. They are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan, where the punishment is implemented statewide nation; Somalia and Nigeria, where the penalty exists only in certain provinces; and regions of Iraq and Syria that are held by the militant group Islamic State.

An additional five countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Qatar, Mauritania and the United Arab Emirates — have this punishment on their books but don’t appear to impose it, according to the report. And in 14 other countries, people engaging in such activity could face a jail sentence of 14 years to life.

For more on global development news, see our Global Development Watch page, and follow me @AMSimmons1 on Twitter


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5:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this story stated the number of countries that allow same-sex marriage as 23. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Assn. has since updated its report to reflect the correct number, which is 22. Slovenia does not allow same-sex marriage as earlier reported.