The following country profiles are derived in part from sections of the Human Rights Watch 2019 World Report that relate to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
This is a living document which will be updated regularly to reflect new events and further Human Rights Watch research. Last updated: February 28, 2019
The report, released in January 2019, is not comprehensive – this year, it covered the events of 2018 in over 100 countries. To fill some of the gaps, we have added additional country profiles for all other countries that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct or gender expression, and for some other countries in which notable events related to LGBT rights took place in 2018. Where Human Rights Watch has undertaken specific work on intersex issues, this has been included.
The country profiles accompany a series of maps that show which countries criminalize consensual same-sex conduct or gender expression, the language of such laws, and the populations targeted. Our hope is that the two resources will be of use to researchers, advocates and legal professionals interested in comparative analysis of the legal and social environments facing LGBT people around the world, as well as those who wish to take a deeper dive into the developments in a particular country.
Same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison. More »
Antigua and Barbuda's 1995 Sexual Offences Act criminalizes the act of buggery between consenting adults More »
In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. More »
LGBT people face harassment, discrimination, and violence. Hateful and derogatory comments circulated on social media regarding the private visit to the country in May 2018 of musician Elton John and his husband. More »
Adultery and sexual relations outside marriage are criminalized. No law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. More »
Although the government took some steps in recent years, such as declaring legal recognition of a third gender category for hijras (sometimes referred to as transgender women), policy implementation on access to state benefits were weak, and sexual and gender minorities remained under constant pressure and threat. More »
Chapter 154 of the 1992 Sexual Offences Act punishes any person who commits "buggery" with life imprisonment, and any person who commits an "act of serious indecency" with 16 years in prison. More »
In May 2018, police charged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activist Vika Biran for staging single-person pickets near three governmental buildings to protest the Interior Ministry’s statement decrying the British embassy for flying a rainbow flag to mark the International Day Against Homophobia. More »
In 2016 the Belize Supreme Court became the first Commonwealth Caribbean Court to hold that laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy were unconstitutional, affirming the rights of LGBT people in Belize to dignity, privacy, and equality before the law. More »
Bhutan’s penal code punishes “sexual conduct against the order of nature” with one month to one year in prison.
In 2016, the Plurinational Assembly passed a bill that allows people to revise the gender listed on their identification documents without prior judicial approval. More »
Between January and September 2018, Sarajevo Open Center, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) and women’s rights group, recorded 27 hate-motivated incidents against LGBTI people, including 10 involving domestic violence, and 136 cases of hate speech, mostly online. More »
In March 2019, following several delays, Botswana’s High Court will hear a case challenging the constitutionality of laws prohibiting consensual same-sex conduct. More »
In September 2017, a federal judge overruled a 1999 decision by the Federal Council of Psychology that banned conversion therapy, which attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The council’s appeals to a federal court and to the Supreme Court were pending at time of writing. More »
Brunei’s penal code punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to ten years in prison and a fine. More »
Burundi punishes consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults with up to two years in prison under Article 567 of the penal code. More »
Cameroon’s penal code punishes “sexual relations between persons of the same sex” with up to five years in prison. More »
In May, the Senate passed Bill C-66, which expunges the records of individuals who were prosecuted because of their sexuality when homosexuality was criminalized in Canada. More »
In 2017, Chad’s president signed into law a new Penal Code that, for the first time, prohibits consensual same-sex relations. More »
In November 2018, President Piñera signed into law a bill to allow transgender individuals over 14 years of age to legally change their name and gender in the civil registry, with no requirement for surgery or change in physical appearance. More »
While China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, it lacks laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, and same-sex partnership is not legal. More »
In recent years, authorities have taken several steps to recognize the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. More »
Comoros’s penal code punishes “impudent acts” or “acts against nature” with two to five years in prison and a fine.
Cook Islands’ penal code punishes sodomy and “indecent acts between males” with five to seven years in prison.
In November 2018, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court ordered the government to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples within 18 months, following an August Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional a law prohibiting same-sex marriage. More »
Côte d’Ivoire does not criminalize same-sex conduct, although the criminal code establishes higher minimum sentences for public indecency for same-sex couples. More »
Following public protest, the Cuban government decided to remove language from the proposed new constitution that would have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples. More »
The 1998 Sexual Offences Act punishes same- sex conduct between two consenting adults with 10 years in prison. More »
Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in Ecuador. Since 2008, civil unions have been recognized but do not accord the full range of rights enjoyed by married couples, including the ability to adopt children. More »
Egypt continues to prosecute dozens of people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. More »
LGBT individuals are targets of homophobic and transphobic violence, including by police and gang members. Since 1994, over 600 have been killed, according to four Salvadoran LGBT rights organizations. More »
Eritrea’s 2015 penal code punishes homosexual conduct with five to seven years in prison. More »
A colonial-era law criminalizes “sodomy,” with an unspecified sentence. Despite this law, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) activists successfully held the first ever “Eswatini Pride” in June 2018, with hundreds marching in the streets of Mbabane in support of LGBT equality.
President Barrow’s government has promised not to prosecute same-sex couples for consensual sexual acts, which sharply contrasted with Jammeh’s hate-filled rhetoric toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. More »
According to the ombudsman, LGBT individuals often experience abuse, intolerance, and discrimination in every sphere of life. Homophobic statements by public officials feed widespread homophobia in society. More »
Article 430 of Grenada's Criminal Code of 1987 defines "any grossly indecent act" as a misdemeanor. More »
Guinea’s penal code punishes undefined indecent acts or acts against nature with six months to three years in prison. More »
The proposed “Life and Family Protection” bill that was approved in a preliminary version in August contains provisions that discriminate against LGBT people. More »
Guyana criminalizes "acts of gross indecency" between men with two years in prison (article 352). More »
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people continue to suffer high levels of discrimination. In 2017, the Haitian Senate passed two anti-LGBT bills, which were under consideration by the Chamber of Deputies as of November 2018. More »
Violence based on gender identity or sexual orientation is a major problem in Honduras. Several UN agencies working in Honduras have noted that violence against LGBT individuals forces them into “internal displacement” or to flee the country in search of international protection. More »
In September, India’s Supreme Court struck down section 377 of India’s penal code, decriminalizing consensual adult same-sex relations. The ruling followed decades of struggle by activists, lawyers, and members of LGBT communities. The court’s decision also has significance internationally, as the Indian law served as a template for similar laws throughout much of the former British empire. More »
Indonesian authorities continued to fail to uphold basic rights of LGBT people, fueling a spike in the country’s HIV epidemic. HIV rates among men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased five-fold since 2007 from 5 to 25 percent. Police arbitrary and unlawful raids on private LGBT gatherings, assisted by militant Islamists, has effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to vulnerable populations. More »
Under Iranian law, same-sex conduct is punishable by flogging and, for men, the death penalty. Although Iran permits and subsidizes sex reassignment surgery for transgender people, no law prohibits discrimination against them. On September 14, 2017, Nasser Atabati, prosecutor of Ardebil province, told media that six people had been arrested in Ardebil for "promoting homosexuality" on the Telegram messaging platform. More »
Iraq’s criminal code does not prohibit same-sex sexual relations, although article 394 makes it illegal to engage in extra-marital sex. More »
Sections 76, 77, and 79 of Jamaica’s Offences Against the Person Act (1864) criminalize both consensual and non-consensual sex between men, and punish same-sex conduct with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or hard labor. More »
The Tokyo Municipal Government (TMG) in October passed a LGBT non-discrimination law, which requires the TMG and encourages private organizations such as companies, schools, and private groups to act to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. More »
In March 2018, Feminita, an Almaty-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) group, issued a report that documented abuses against LGBT women in Kazakhstan, including insults, humiliation, harassment, illegal dismissals, and forced resignations. More »
Kiribati punishes “buggery” with up to 14 years in prison.
Adultery and extramarital intercourse are criminalized, and same-sex relations between men are punishable by up to seven years in prison. More »
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights groups reported that LGBT people continue to face ill-treatment, extortion, and discrimination by state and non-state actors. More »
Article 534 of the penal code punishes “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” with up to one year in prison. More »
The penal code prohibits all sexual acts outside marriage, including consensual same-sex relations, and punishes them with flogging and up to five years in prison. More »
Section 153 of Malawi’s penal code provides that any person found guilty of committing an “unnatural offence /offence against the order of nature” is liable to 14 years in prison, with or without corporal punishment. Section 154 punishes attempted unnatural offences with seven years’ imprisonment, and section 156 punishes “gross indecency” between males with five years in prison, with or without corporal punishment. More »
Discrimination against LGBT people remains pervasive in Malaysia. Federal law punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to 20 years in prison, while numerous state Sharia laws prohibit both same-sex relations and non-normative gender expression, resulting in frequent arrests of transgender people. More »
The Maldivian penal code criminalizes adult, consensual same-sex sexual conduct; the punishment can include imprisonment of up to eight years and 100 lashes. More »
Article 308 of the penal code prohibits homosexual conduct between Muslim adults and punishes it with death for males. There were no known cases of persons imprisoned or sentenced to death in 2018 for homosexual conduct. More »
Mauritius punishes sodomy with up to five years in prison.
Article 489 of the penal code stipulates prison terms of six months to three years for “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex.” More »
Two years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Mozambique, and in spite of a November 2017 court decision that declared unconstitutional a law with vague “morality” provisions that had been used to justify denying registration to LGBT groups, the government has still not registered the country’s largest such group, Lambda. More »
Burma’s penal code punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to ten years in prison and a fine. More »
Namibia criminalizes sodomy and “unnatural sexual offences” between men. The sentence is unspecified.
The constitution recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected through fundamental rights. More »
The government moved to limit accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers in the country, arguing that local authorities were increasingly meeting demand, and during the year closed multiple shelters, with the aim of reducing capacity from 31,000 to 27,000. More »
In May 2018, the Benue State House of Assembly passed a Same Sex Marriage Prohibition (SSMP) Law. Like the federal law adopted in 2014, the law criminalizes public show of same-sex amorous relationships, same-sex marriages, and the registration of gay clubs, societies, and organizations. More »
Laws in Gaza punish “unnatural intercourse” of a sexual nature, understood to include same-sex relationships, with up to 10 years in prison. More »
Article 17 of the Basic Law states that all citizens are equal and bans gender-based discrimination. More »
Violence against transgender and intersex women in Pakistan continues. According to the local group Trans Action, 479 attacks against transgender women were reported in Khyber-Pakhunkhwa province in 2018. At least four transgender women were killed there in 2018, and at least 57 have been killed there since 2015. On May 4, the fatal shooting of Muni, a transgender woman in Mansehra district, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, attracted national attention. More »
The PNG criminal code outlaws sex “against the order of nature,” which has been interpreted to apply to consensual same-sex acts, and is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment More »
Same-sex couples in Peru are not allowed to marry or engage in civil unions. In February 2017, a group of lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. It remained pending in Congress at time of writing. More »
The Philippine Supreme Court heard a long-awaited argument in June that could open the door to same-sex marriage in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. In May, the city of Mandaluyong approved an ordinance to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people—the latest in a slew of similar local laws passed across the country. More »
Qatar’s penal code criminalizes “sodomy,” punishing same-sex relations with imprisonment between one to three years. Muslims convicted of zina (sex outside of marriage) can also be sentenced to flogging (if unmarried) or the death penalty (if married). Non-Muslims can be sentenced to imprisonment. More »
Federal authorities failed to carry out an effective investigation into the 2017 anti-gay purge in Chechnya, during which local police tortured dozens of men presumed to be gay. More »
Samoa punishes sodomy with up to five years in prison.
Saudi Arabia has no written laws concerning sexual orientation or gender identity, but judges use principles of uncodified Islamic law to sanction people suspected of committing sexual relations outside marriage, including adultery, extramarital and homosexual sex. More »
Article 319 of Senegal’s penal code punishes “acts against nature” with a person of the same sex with up to five years in prison. More »
Between January and mid-August 2018, the Serbian LGBT rights organization DA SE ZNA! recorded nine incidents against LGBT people, including four physical attacks, and five cases of threats and intimidation. In Kosovo, Hate speech online against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists continued, particularly around the Kosovo Pride in October 2018. More »
Sierra Leone’s 1861 law punishes buggery with up to life in prison.
The rights of Singapore’s LGBT community are severely restricted. Sexual relations between two male persons remains a criminal offense under criminal code section 377A, and there are no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. More »
The penal code of the Solomon Islands punishes buggery and indecent practices with up to 14 years in prison.
Somalia’s penal code, currently being revised, punishes same-sex intercourse with a period of imprisonment between three months and three years. More »
In an October 2018 speech in Cape Town, President Ramaphosa strongly supported the rights of the LGBTI community, stating that “the violation of the rights and equal worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people demeans our common humanity as South Africans. Not only does it expose individuals to pain, suffering and even violence, but it often limits access to social services and economic opportunities for LGBTI people in our country.” More »
The growing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement triggered increased resistance by conservative groups. In July, more than 210,000 people signed a petition on the South Korean president’s website demanding that the Seoul Pride Parade be cancelled. The event took place as planned. In September, anti-LGBT protesters blocked the first-ever Queer Culture Festival in Incheon and attacked festival participants, leading to eight arrests. More »
South Sudan punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to ten years in prison and a fine. More »
Sri Lanka has not revoked sections 365 and 365A of the penal code, which criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. Some lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people—particularly those who are visibly gender non-conforming—face arbitrary arrest, police mistreatment, and discrimination in accessing health care, employment, and housing. More »
St. Kitts and Nevis' Offences Against the Person Act punishes the "abominable crime of buggery" with a sentence of up 10 years in prison or hard labor. More »
In the 2004 Criminal Code of St. Lucia, any act of "gross indecency” committed by people of the same sex is punishable by 10 years in prison. More »
In the 1990 Criminal Code of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Section 146 punishes "buggery" with 10 years in prison, and Section 148 punishes an "act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex" with five years in prison. More »
Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse.” It is punishable by imprisonment by up to three years. Article 517 of the Code punishes crimes “against public decency” that are carried out in public with imprisonment of three months to three years. More »
LGBT people face discrimination in Tajikistan, although same-sex conduct is not criminalized. More »
Tanzanian law makes consensual adult same-sex conduct punishable by up to life in prison. The government has shut down drop-in centers serving LGBT people and other key populations and has banned distribution of water-based lubricant, an HIV prevention tool. More »
Togo’s Penal Code punishes indecent acts or acts against nature with one to three years in prison and a fine.
Tonga’s Criminal Offenses Act punishes sodomy with up to ten years in prison and whipping. Tonga also prohibits “any male person” from “impersonat[ing]…a female” while soliciting for an immoral purpose, prescribing a fine and up to one year in prison as punishment.
In April 2018, the High Court ruled sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act that criminalize “buggery” and “serious indecency” unconstitutional on grounds that they violated fundamental rights including privacy and family life. The court also found that the laws were not protected from challenge by the savings clause in the constitution. More »
Despite accepting a recommendation during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in May 2017 to end the discredited police practice of administering anal testing to “prove” homosexuality, the government has not yet taken any steps to carry out this pledge. More »
A November 2017 ban on public events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights groups by the Ankara governor was enforced throughout 2018, and inspired bans of assemblies and events in other cities and revealed Turkey’s increasingly repressive approach to LGBT groups. More »
Homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Turkmen law, punishable by a maximum two-year prison sentence. More »
Tuvalu punishes sex between males with up to 14 years in prison.
Uganda’s colonial-era law continues to prohibit “carnal knowledge” among people of the same sex and crackdowns on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex activists continued. More »
Members of groups advocating hate and discrimination carried out at least two dozen violent attacks, threats, or instances of intimidation against Roma people, LGBT people, and rights activists in several Ukrainian cities. In most cases, police failed to respond or effectively investigate. More »
Article 356 of the penal code criminalizes (but does not define) “indecency” and provides for a minimum sentence of one year in prison. UAE courts use this article to convict and sentence people for zina offenses, which include same-sex relations as well as consensual heterosexual relations outside marriage. More »
The Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to roll back a federal rule clarifying that the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity. More »
Uzbekistan’s criminal code punishes consensual sex between men with up to three years in prison. In May 2018, Uzbekistan underwent the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). More »
Zambia’s penal code punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with seven years to life in prison.
Section 73 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, 2004 punishes consensual same-sex conduct between men with up to one year in prison or a fine or both. This restrictive legislation contributes to stigma and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. More »