There was a “severe spike” in arrests and prosecutions for consensual same-sex sexual acts and on the grounds diverse gender expressions in 2023, according to a report from The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
The study, titled “Our Identities Under Arrest,” analyzed incidents occurring in 65 countries since 2021, finding evidence of enforcement against consensual same-sex sexual acts, as well as against diverse gender expression. In the first six months of 2023 alone, arrests and prosecutions were documented in at least 32 member States of the United Nations.
63 UN member States continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual acts, according to the report.
The data shows “strong reasons to believe” that the number of instances shown within the report are only a small fraction of the real number of arrests and prosecutions taking place around the world.
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In 2021, Cameroon had 36 criminal investigations into “homosexuality” which resulted in 16 trials and 14 convictions. Morocco had 212 registered cases and 287 trials. However, Moroccan law doesn’t differentiate between consensual and non-consensual acts the report disclaimed so those numbers cannot be taken at face value.
Qatar had at least eight people in prison as of April 2021 for “homosexuality. A 2018 performance report found that in 2017, Sri Lanken police saw 17 cases and prosecutions of “homosexuality.” In April 2021, Uzbekistan’s Interior Ministry reported 49 people incarcerated for “sodomy,” then later disclosed that 13 more adult males has been convicted and were in prison as well.
Finally, the report listed that in September 2022, Zambia had 18 cases of sodomy countrywide between Jan. 1 of that year and Sept. 20. 15 arrests had been made, and three were under investigation while one resulted in a sentence of eight years with “hard labor.”
“These figures are particularly disturbing and provide a rough idea of the sheer dimension of the enormous gap in data we may be facing,” the report stated. “Needless to say, official records reflect only the number of cases that have been formally registered, so even with these records, numerous arrests still fall outside of these figures.”
There report highlighted shifts seen in countries that were previously deemed as “safe” or “quiet,” as well as an uptick in enforcement in countries where there has been few to none over the five year before 2021.
Forms of punishment and imprisonment vary widely across the different regions, so much so that in some nations, LGBTQ+ people can be imprisoned for a couple months, while others they can be imprisoned for 30 years.
Punishment can be as severe as the death penalty in Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. There is a possibility of the death penalty in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Laws criminalizing being homosexual are still prevalent in one-third of countries worldwide. However, there have been some advances as, according a database by ILGA World, over the past 30 years, 50 UN member states have decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual acts.
“If nothing else, we hope that this publication will serve as a snapshot of our time. A history lesson for those who come after us, and a rallying cry for those still doing the important work of decriminalization,” the lead author Kelly Botha wrote.
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