Out in the World: New ILGA World report tracks global backtracking on LGBTQ rights

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Friday May 31, 2024
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ILGA World has issued a new report highlighting global backsliding on LGBTQ rights. Image: From ILGA World
ILGA World has issued a new report highlighting global backsliding on LGBTQ rights. Image: From ILGA World

Responding to the alarming rise in restrictions of freedom for LGBTQ people around the world, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Intersex Association World has released a new report highlighting the global backtracking on LGBTQ rights.

The new report, "Laws on Us: A Global Overview of Legal Progress and Backtracking on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics," documents legal developments affecting LGBTQ people in 193 of the 195 countries recognized by the United Nations and other jurisdictions. ILGA World examined these countries between January 2023 and April 2024 and published its findings ahead of Pride Month in June, according to the organization's May 30 news release.

ILGA World is a federation of more than 1,900 organizations from more than 160 countries and territories advocating for LGBTQ human rights. Researchers using the ILGA World database examined 11 legal categories and modeled the report after previous landmark reports by the organization, such as the "State-Sponsored Homophobia" and the "Trans Legal Mapping Report," according to the release.

One-third of the world (32%) continues to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts, according to the report. Some progress is happening to legally protect gender recognition and to safeguard intersex minors.

However, despite the increasing number of laws and regulations aimed at bolstering legal protections, the researchers noted in the report that stark opposition has been a recurring theme in legal debates in every U.N. member state, according to the release. The report pointed out there has been an alarming rise in restrictions on freedom of expression and association on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics issues.

The researchers also recognized in the release the importance of 2024 as a "super election" year, as the Bay Area Reporter reported last week. European Elections are in June. This year, Europe will experience 30-plus elections across the region, according to ILGA Europe. According to the Associated Press, more than 50 countries representing half the planet's population are holding national elections this year, with the news outlet's headline noting they "will test even the most robust democracies."

ILGA World leaders expressed concerns.

"In 2024, half of the global population will head to the election polls, and states are trying to restrict the civic space for non-governmental organizations — in particular those addressing sexual and gender diversity," stated Julia Ehrt, executive director at ILGA World. "Even talking about our lives in public is becoming increasingly difficult in a growing number of states. This trend is extremely concerning: history has shown us multiple times that the advances our movements have made worldwide are often just an election or a downturn away from being reversed."

Countries not equipped for far-right attacks

In May, ILGA Europe warned that Europe is not equipped for attacks from the far-right as hate is on the rise with its release of the Rainbow Map 2024.

ILGA Europe pointed out two-thirds of respondents to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights' (EUFRA) LGBTIQ Survey III report had encountered hate statements and a significant increase in violence since the last survey in 2019, according to the release.

The map was published just one day after the EUFRA report. The map's findings clarify that more than ever only legal protections can ensure fundamental rights are guaranteed, the release stated.

This week, Le Monde, a French digital newspaper, had a headline, "Homophobic ambushers are baiting and beating gay men across France."

The State Department recently issued a warning to United States LGBTQ travelers to be on alert globally due to "the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events." The warning came days after the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a similar threat alert about potential attacks on Pride events in the U.S., as the B.A.R. reported.

Authoritarian leaders across Europe continue to scapegoat LGBTQ people to divide and mobilize their electorates, observers have noted. ILGA World called out Italy for some of its regions rolling back same-sex parental rights. It pointed to efforts in Croatia, France, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom to limit access to gender-affirming health care, dropping their rank in the map.

The organization also pointed out that most E.U. accession countries, such as Albania and Ukraine, are falling behind in their commitments by stalling the introduction of legislation that would protect citizens, according to the release. In an extreme example, Georgia and Turkey, which are E.U. accession candidates, have actively eroded human rights and fundamental freedoms, including efforts to pass new legislation, particularly targeting LGBTQ people.

At the same time, the map demonstrated some European countries are "showing robust political will to uphold commitments to advancing and protecting LGBTQ rights." Greece, Germany, Iceland, Estonia, and Liechtenstein made significant strides with laws protecting LGBTQ people, raising their ranking in the map.

"Across Europe, LGBTI people are being targeted by hate speech and violence and their human rights are being actively undermined," ILGA-Europe's Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel stated in a release from the organization ahead of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia held May 17. "Yet we still see too many countries across the region stalling in moving legal protection forward and not renewing their commitments through national strategies and action plans.

"This non-action is dangerous, as without proper legislation in place to protect minorities, including LGBTI people, it will be much too easy for newly elected governments to quickly undermine human rights and democracy," she continued.

According to the release, ILGA Europe tracked developments in LGBTQ rights in the region since 2009. Researchers used 75 criteria to examine 49 European countries' laws and policies on LGBTQ human rights and ranked the countries from 0%-100%.

Extremism is global

Europe is just a sample of what is happening around the world.

"Our communities celebrated important victories during the past two years," Lucas Ramón Mendos, research manager at ILGA World and "Laws On Us" lead co-author, stated in the release. "And yet, resistance and detraction have materialized almost everywhere."

The new ILGA World 206-page report called out Uganda's implementation of the "Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023" and Iraq's passage in April of a harsh anti-LGBTQ bill that calls for up to 15 years imprisonment for gay sex and up to three years imprisonment for people who undergo gender reassignment surgery, reported the AP.

Afghanistan and Yemen were highlighted in the report for actively enforcing extreme forms of capital punishment. The release also noted regressive bills announced in at least five U.N. member states, and four more states held discussions to criminalize or strengthen penalties against LGBTQ people.

The researchers raised concerns about countries limiting LGBTQ people's ability to gather publicly, citing laws in Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uganda that were implemented targeting the so-called promotion of homosexuality, according to the report.

"We have seen an alarming rise in restrictions on freedom of expression and association," report lead co-author Dhia Rezki Rohaizad stated. "This has resulted in censorship, arrests, and persecution in many U.N. member States."

Progress made

Researchers also emphasized advancements in LGBTQ rights from decriminalization to gender recognition to same-sex marriage in the report.

The report noted Ecuador, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, and Spain — along with the state of Yucatán in Mexico — have passed gender self-identification laws. Nine U.N. states enacted national protections for intersex minors from unnecessary and non-consensual interventions with Chile, Spain, and jurisdictions like the Australian Capital Territory and the Balearic Islands joining the list in 2023, according to the release.

Advancements in anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation were limited, but multiple anti-discrimination bills were in progress awaiting legislative approval at the time of the report's publication.

The report highlighted progress for decriminalization in U.N. member states Singapore, Mauritius, and Dominica, and non-U.N. member the Cook Islands.

Same-sex marriage passed in Andorra, Estonia, Greece, and Slovenia, with Nepal issuing an interim order for same-sex unions, according to the report. Bolivia and Latvia legalized same-sex civil unions. Japan has seen several prefectures grant same-sex civil unions, as the B.A.R. previously reported and the report noted.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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