Sexual diversity and the law

Source: AWID
Throughout 2010, airs of social and political change swept through the Americas from the north to the south. Many activists are aware, though, that the gains to date are small steps towards living and fully enjoying their rights, and they know that they must continue to pressure the States to promote and protect the human rights of all people, no matter what their sexual orientation and gender identity. [see more]
The legal status of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people varies widely around the world, but nowhere do they enjoy equality of rights with heterosexuals.

Leading the vanguard, South Africa, Fiji and Ecuador include sexual orientation as a category protected from discrimination in their Constitutions. However, many other countries maintain laws that prohibit or regulate sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex. Often called 'sodomy' laws, some statutes regulate specific sexual acts (for example anal sex) regardless of gender or sexual orientation while others prohibit a range of same-sex sexual activities. Many laws are quite broad in their scope, for example prohibiting any 'unnatural' or 'indecent' sexual act. In some countries, in particular Moslem nations where very conservative forms of Sharia law are followed, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, homosexual acts are illegal, and subject to a maximum penalty of death. In other countries -and more often the case with lesbian relationships- national laws make no mention regarding either their criminalization or legality.

In 1994 the United Nations Human Rights Committee, ruling in a case brought by an Australian against a law criminalizing consensual sex between adult men in the state of Tasmania, Australia, found that such laws violate the right to privacy and to freedom from discrimination and added that the reference to 'sex' in the non-discrimination clauses of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (Articles 2(1) and 26) should be taken as including 'sexual orientation'. In other words, the rights set out in the ICCPR cannot be denied to any individual because of their sexual orientation.

Both the criminalization and the legal invisibility of homosexual relations affects the rights of lesbians and gays to equal treatment, opportunities and access in areas such as employment, housing, public services, pensions, health benefits, etc.

While profound socio-cultural changes are necessary for LGBT people to be able to enjoy and exercise their full rights as equal citizens in society, campaigning for legal reforms to eliminate existing discriminatory legislation and introduce new laws that explicitly defend freedom of sexual orientation is an important step towards achieving those changes. Many national and international LGBT organizations dedicate at least part of their energies to lobbying for such reforms, and in some cases to defending gains already made against conservative backlash.
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Legal status of gays, lesbian and transgender people worldwide

World legal survey

Status worldwide of sexual minority rights

Laws worldwide

Behind The Mask

Map on LGBTI rights in the world (International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA))

Global warming to gay rights: the worldwide trend of recognizing same-sex marriage will likely continue (IGLHRC)

Sexualities and sexual rights (WHRNet)

In the United Nations

The role of the Yogyakarta Principles (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

UN: General Assembly statement affirms rights for all (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

UN vote allowing gays go be executed is the result of political, religious fundamentalism (AWID)

Considerations about the Yogyakarta Principles (Sexuality Policy Watch - SPW)

Sexuality at the United Nations (Sexuality Policy Watch)

Yogyakarta Principles on international human rights law, sexual orientation and gender identity

Report on ILGA's activities at the United Nations in 2006: Organising our coming out at the UN (ILGA)

How long will LGBT Rights be ignored by the United Nations? (ILGA)

Campaign in support of the Brazilian Resolution 2005 (African-Rapport)

Left outside the scope of human rights protection? (Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations - CONGO)

Human rights: the principle of universality tested in resolution on sexual orientation

Landmark legal reforms and rulings

Argentina: recognition of civil unions

Korea: registration of transgendered individual case

South African gay couples achieving equal rights (

South African Constitutional Court recognises lesbian and gay relationships

Setbacks and regressive legal measures

Mexico: local ordinance penalizes 'men who dress as women'

South Africa: judgment in same sex marriage case

Voices from Nigeria: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders speak out about the same-sex bill (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC))

Uganda: Anti-homosexuality bill violates human rights (AfricaFiles)

Vatican opposes gay marriage (Choike)

Sexual orientation in international law

Finding a place in international law

First hurdle for LGBT rights passed within Latin American Economic Union (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

International jurisprudence and policy precedents regarding sexual orientation (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

Making the mountain move: an activist's guide to how international human rights mechanisms can work for you (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

Where you can marry (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

Human rights and sexual orientation in international law (ILGA)

Landmark victory: lesbian inmate finally granted visitation rights

Analysis of legal status in selected countries

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

Situation of homosexuals in India

What Jamaican law says about homosexuality

LGBT Korea statement

South Africa: the Gay and Lesbian Legal Advice Centre

Iran's sodomy law: reading between the lines (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

Nepal Supreme Court case on relief for sexual and gender minorities: observers' report (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

Malaysia: "in this country, an accusation of sodomy is defamation of character" (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC))

LGBTI rights in Latin America and the Caribbean (AWID)

Mexico: Supreme Court Upholds Non-Discrimination Against Gays (IPS)

The tale of the pink toilet: transgender rights in Thailand (IGLHRC)

"We need a law for liberation": Gender, sexuality, and human rights in a changing Turkey (Human Rights Watch)

Challenging section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (AWID)

With the government in our bedrooms (ILGA)

Bills presented defending LGBT rights

Jamaica: parliamentary submission

Korea: bill regulating transgender sex changes


Sexuality and human rights (International Council on Human Rights Policy)

SexPolitics - Reports from the Front Lines (Sexuality Policy Watch)

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