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ILJ Online

ILJ Online is the online component of Fordham International Law Journal.

Recent International Developments on the Criminalization of Sexual Orientation

Around the world, millions of individuals live with the possibility of being criminally prosecuted for engaging in same-sex relationships. [1] Currently, seventy-two states criminalize same-sex relationships, including eight which impose the death penalty for engaging in such relationships. [2] These countries are mostly concentrated in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. [3] Many proponents of the death penalty justify its use with Sharia law. [4] [5] For example, under Sharia law in Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexuality is still punishable by death. [6] [7] In Syria and Iraq, paramilitary forces including the Islamic state carry out the death penalty. [8] Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community face not only legal repercussions stemming from their sexual orientation, but also societal discrimination because of these laws. [9] [10] The criminalization of same-sex relationships derives from a cultural fallacy that LGBTQ+ individuals are “immoral”; as such, these individuals are at a heightened risk of violence within their communities. [11] The criminalization of homosexual activity proliferated in 2017. For example, Indonesia had its first public flogging for homosexual activity. [12] Additionally, Guyana canceled a referendum vote on the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. [13] Thus, in places such as Indonesia and Guyana, LGBTQ+ individuals are denied basic human rights and continue to suffer discrimination and violence. [14]

Despite these negative developments, the past year also saw the international community and many individual states promoting LGBTQ+ rights through international relations, legislation, and the judicial system. For instance, in September 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution condemning the imposition of the death penalty to sanction same-sex relationships. [15] Additionally, on January 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of India announced that it would revisit its 2013 decision to reinstate section 377 of India’s Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct. [16] [17] This law was previously declared unconstitutional by the Indian Supreme Court in 2009. [18] While there has been significant progress internationally in securing rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in same-sex relationships, many legal battles remain.

This post is a student blog post and in no way represents the views of the Fordham International Law Journal.