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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Unveiling Equality: Advancing LGBTQ Decriminalization and Legalization

The LGBTQ community has faced a long and arduous struggle for recognition, acceptance and equality in many parts of the world. Despite the significant progress made in some countries, such as Canada, where same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2005, many others still criminalize homosexuality and impose harsh penalties for those who dare to love differently. In this blog post, we will explore the history and current status of LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization around the world, as well as the challenges and opportunities for further social progress.

What is LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization?

LGBTQ decriminalization refers to the removal of laws that make homosexuality or other forms of gender identity or expression illegal. LGBTQ legalization refers to the granting of legal rights and protections to LGBTQ individuals and couples, such as marriage, adoption, anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. Both decriminalization and legalization are essential steps toward achieving equal rights and dignity for the LGBTQ community.

Why is LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization important?

LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization are important for several reasons. First, they affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Second, they promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ individuals, who often face stigma, violence, discrimination and exclusion in criminalized or hostile environments. Third, they foster a more inclusive and diverse society that respects and celebrates human diversity. Fourth, they advance the global human rights agenda that recognizes LGBTQ rights as human rights.

What is the history of LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization?

The history of LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization is complex and varied across different regions and cultures. In many countries, the criminalization of homosexuality is based on legal codes inherited from the British Empire. The French colonial empire did not lead to the criminalization of homosexuality, as this was abolished in France during the French Revolution to remove religious influence from the criminal law. Some indigenous societies, such as the Native Americans, had more tolerant or accepting attitudes towards homosexuality and gender diversity before colonization.

The modern movement for LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization began in the 20th century, especially after World War II when many LGBTQ activists emerged to challenge the oppression and persecution they faced under Nazi Germany and other authoritarian regimes. The first country to decriminalize homosexuality was Denmark in 1933, followed by Sweden in 1944. The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in 2001, followed by Belgium in 2003. Since then, many other countries have followed suit, either through legislative or judicial means.

What is the current status of LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization?

As of 2023[update], homosexuality is criminalized de jure in 62 UN member states and de facto in two others; at least six of these have a death penalty for homosexuality. The most severe punishments are found in some Islamic countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. However, some Muslim-majority countries have decriminalized homosexuality or have more progressive laws on LGBTQ rights, such as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia (except Aceh province), Lebanon (although enforcement is inconsistent), Turkey (although discrimination is widespread) and Tunisia (although conversion therapy is legal).

On the other hand, 29 UN member states have legalized same-sex marriage as of 2023[update]. The most recent ones are Costa Rica (2020), Switzerland (2021) and Taiwan (2019). Some countries have also recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, such as Chile (2015), Ecuador (2015), Estonia (2016), Greece (2015), Italy (2016) and Thailand (2021). Additionally, 72 UN member states have anti-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity; 43 have hate crime laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity; 39 allow same-sex couples to adopt children; 37 allow transgender people to change their legal gender without surgery; and 11 ban conversion therapy.

What are the challenges and opportunities for further LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization?

The challenges and opportunities for further LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization depend on various factors, such as political will, public opinion, cultural norms, religious beliefs, human rights advocacy and international pressure. Some of the main challenges are:

- The lack of legal recognition and protection for LGBTQ individuals and couples in many countries, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, where homosexuality is still criminalized or stigmatized.

- The rise of conservative or populist movements that oppose LGBTQ rights and spread misinformation or hate speech against the LGBTQ community, such as in Brazil, Hungary, Poland and Russia.

- The influence of religious groups or leaders that condemn homosexuality or gender diversity as sinful or unnatural, such as in Uganda, Nigeria and Jamaica.

- The persistence of violence, harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ people in many countries, even where homosexuality is legal or tolerated, such as in Mexico, South Africa and India.

- The lack of data and research on the situation and needs of LGBTQ people in many countries, especially those who are marginalized or invisible, such as bisexual, intersex or transgender people.

Some of the main opportunities are:

- The growing awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ people and issues in many countries, especially among younger generations, who are more exposed to diverse media and cultures.

- The increasing mobilization and visibility of LGBTQ activists and organizations in many countries, who advocate for their rights and provide support and services to their communities.

- The expanding network and solidarity of LGBTQ allies and supporters in various sectors, such as civil society, media, academia, business, sports and entertainment.

- The strengthening of international human rights standards and mechanisms that protect and promote LGBTQ rights, such as the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the Yogyakarta Principles and the Global Equality Fund.

- The development of innovative and inclusive approaches to advance LGBTQ rights and social progress, such as public education campaigns, strategic litigation, digital activism, cultural diplomacy and intersectional coalitions.


LGBTQ decriminalization and legalization are not only matters of law and policy but also of justice and dignity. They are essential for ensuring that every person can live freely and authentically without fear or shame. They are also beneficial for creating a more peaceful and prosperous society that values diversity and inclusion. As we celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ community so far, we must also continue to work towards a world where everyone can enjoy equal rights and opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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