The following country profiles are derived in part from sections of the Human Rights Watch 2020 World Report that relate to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and (LGBT) people.

This is a living document which will be updated regularly to reflect new events and further Human Rights Watch research. Last updated: June 22, 2020

The report, released in January 2020, is not comprehensive – this year, it covered the events of 2019 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 2019. 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, along with another series of maps showing where same-sex marriage or civil unions are legalized. Our hope is that the three 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.

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In February 2018 Afghanistan adopted a new penal code that explicitly criminalizes consensual same-sex relations. More »


Same-sex relations are punishable under article 338 of the penal code by up to two years in prison. More »


In January 2019, Angola scrapped its colonial-era penal code, which characterized homosexuality as “vices against nature,” and adopted a new penal code that does not criminalize same-sex conduct. The new penal code also prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. More »

Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda's 1995 Sexual Offences Act criminalizes the act of “buggery” between consenting adults with a sentence of 15 years in prison, and acts of “serious indecency” with up to 5 years. Human Rights Watch has documented homophobic violence and threats faced by gay men and trans women in Antigua and Barbuda. More »


In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage. More »


LGBT people in Armenia face harassment, discrimination, and violence. Discussions around the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) descended to hateful and derogatory speech by some public officials against LGBT people, suggesting that the convention has a hidden agenda of “LGBT propaganda” and legitimizing same-sex marriage. More »


Austria conducted its first same-sex marriages on January 1, 2019. More »


Although no law has specifically criminalized same-sex acts between adults over the age of 21 since the repeal of the 1955 British-imposed Penal Code in 1976, the authorities have reportedly prosecuted acts such as organizing a “gay party” or cross-dressing under vague penal code provisions against “indecency” and “immorality.” More »


Section 377 of the Bangladeshi penal code punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” by up to life imprisonment. The government has taken some positive steps in recent years, such as declaring legal recognition of a third gender category for hijras. 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 December 2019, a court in Minsk recognized an August 2019 attack on a filmmaker as a hate-motivated crime, sentencing the perpetrator to one-and-a-half years of restriction of liberty, a sentence similar to house-arrest. Recognition of the hate motive in the attack on the filmmaker, who had been working on an LGBT-themed documentary, signals progress for accountability and justice for LGBT people in Belarus. 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 »


A bill that would repeal parts of Bhutan's penal code that criminalize same-sex conduct was introduced in the upper house of Parliament in January 2019. More »


In 2016, the Plurinational Assembly passed a bill that allows people to revise the gender listed on their identification documents without prior judicial approval. But in November 2017, the Constitutional Court ruled that revision of gender did not grant the right to marry a person of the same biological sex. More »

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 2018, Sarajevo Open Center (SOC), an LGBTI and women's rights group, recorded 5 discrimination cases, 39 cases of hate speech and calling for violence, and 33 other incidents motivated by SOGI-based prejudices, including 9 domestic violence cases. More »


In June 2019, following several delays and postponements, Botswana's High Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of laws prohibiting consensual same-sex conduct. More »


President Jair Bolsonaro's government has mounted an assault on what Bolsonaro calls “gender ideology,” in an attempt to stifle discussion of LGBT equality and gender equality more broadly. More »


On April 3, 2019, Brunei’s Syariah Penal Code (2013) went into effect. The draconian law punishes any form of anal intercourse (liwat) or sex outside of marriage (zina), between partners of any sex, with death by stoning (articles 68, 69, 82, 85, 86). 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 June 2018, the Senate passed Bill C-66, which expunges the records of individuals who were prosecuted because of their sexuality when same-sex conduct 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 people 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. More »

Cook Islands

Cook Islands’ penal code punishes sodomy and “indecent acts between males” with five to seven years in prison. More »

Costa Rica

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

Côte d’Ivoire does not criminalize same-sex conduct, and the new criminal code removed references to acts between members of the same sex as an aggravating factor in cases of public indecency. An antidiscrimination provision in Côte d’Ivoire’s new constitution, promulgated in January 2017, does not include protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. More »


Article 42 of the Cuban Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Following public protest, in 2018 the Cuban government removed language from the proposed new constitution that would have defined marriage as inclusive of same-sex couples. More »


Section 16 of the 1998 Sexual Offences Act punishes same-sex conduct between two consenting adults with 10 years in prison. More »


On June 13, 2019, Ecuador's Constitutional Court ruled to recognize same-sex marriage, declaring the country's marriage legislation discriminatory and unconstitutional. Since 2008, civil unions had been recognized but did 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 »

El Salvador

LGBT individuals are targets of homophobic and transphobic violence, including by police and gang members. More »


Eritrea’s 2015 penal code punishes homosexual conduct with five to seven years in prison. More »

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)

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. More »


Ethiopia’s criminal code punishes homosexual acts with up to 15 years in prison. More »


In July 2019, Gabon outlawed “sexual relations between persons of the same sex.” More »


President Adama Barrow’s government has assured Human Rights Watch that it does not intend to prosecute same-sex couples for consensual sexual acts, which sharply contrasts with former president Yahya Jammeh's hate-filled rhetoric toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. More »


In 2019, activists planned Georgia's first-ever Pride Week, including various social, political, and cultural events and a Pride March in the capital, Tbilisi, for June 22. On May 31, the Interior Ministry, citing an alleged risk to people involved, issued a statement saying that the events could not be held outdoors. More »


Ghana has taken substantial positive steps in its treatment of LGBT people. More »


Article 430 of Grenada’s Criminal Code of 1987 defines “any grossly indecent act” as a misdemeanor. More »


The proposed Life and Family Protection bill that was approved in a preliminary version in August 2018, and which President Alejandro Giammattei has publicly supported, contains provisions that discriminate against LGBT people. More »


Guinea’s penal code punishes undefined indecent acts or acts against nature with six months to three years in prison. More »


Guyana criminalizes “acts of gross indecency” between men with two years in prison (article 352). The criminal code sentences any person convicted of “buggery” to life in prison (article 354). More »


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people continue to suffer high levels of discrimination. More »


LGBT people in Honduras are frequently the targets of violence. More »


In September 2018, 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 rights of LGBT people, contributing to a spike in the country's HIV epidemic. Arbitrary police raids on private LGBT gatherings, assisted by militant Islamists, have 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. More »


Iraq’s criminal code does not prohibit same-sex sexual relations, although article 394 makes it illegal to engage in extramarital sex. More »


In August 2019, an Israeli judge ruled that billboard companies cannot reject homophobic political advertisements after two companies denied space on the outside wall of a Jerusalem hotel to a far-right party, Noam. The ads linked gay people with child trafficking. 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 »


In January 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the 2004 Gender Identity Disorder Special Cases Act, which requires that transgender people be sterilized to obtain documents reflecting their gender identity, was constitutional, stating that there is a “need to avoid abrupt changes in a society where the distinction of men and women have long been based on biological gender.” More »


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Kazakhstan routinely face harassment, discrimination, and the threat of violence. Kazakhstan’s constitution and laws do not explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. More »


Kenya punishes consensual same-sex relations with up to 14 years in prison. A constitutional challenge to the ban was rejected by Kenya’s High Court on May 24, 2019. More »


Kiribati punishes “buggery” with up to 14 years in prison. More »


Adultery and extramarital intercourse are criminalized. Article 193 of the Kuwaiti penal code punishes consensual same-sex intercourse between men 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 subject to up to 14 years in prison, with or without corporal punishment. Section 154 punishes attempted unnatural offenses 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. More »


Mauritius punishes sodomy with up to five years in prison. More »


Mexico City and 18 additional Mexican states have legalized same-sex marriage. More »


Moroccan law criminalizes what it refers to as acts of“sexual deviancy” between members of the same sex, a term that authorities use to refer to homosexuality more generally. More »


Five 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 »


Myanmar’s penal code punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with up to 10 years in prison and a fine. More »


Namibia criminalizes sodomy and “unnatural sexual offences” between men. The sentence is unspecified. More »


Nepal has a record of relatively progressive legal protections for LGBTI people, including landmark Supreme Court rulings. However, these rulings are not always implemented by officials. More »


The Netherlands issued its first non-binary passport in October 2018. More »


Nigerian laws, policies and political discourse continued to reinforce intolerance in same-sex relations and gender nonconformity throughout 2019. Nigerian law criminalizes same-sex conduct as well as public show of same-sex amorous relationships, same-sex marriages, and the registration of gay clubs, societies, and organizations. More »

Occupied Palestinian Territories

Laws in Gaza punish “unnatural intercourse” of a sexual nature, understood to include same-sex relationships, with up to 10 years in prison. More »


Oman promulgated a new penal code in January 2018 that criminalizes non-normative gender expression. More »


In the early stages of municipal lockdowns during the Covid-19 crisis, Pakistani officials and political leaders expressed explicit support for transgender communities. This follows a major development in 2019, when Pakistan's parliament passed a law guaranteeing basic rights for transgender citizens and outlawing discrimination by employers. More »


In November 2019, following widespread protests, President Cortizo recommended that many proposed controversial constitutional amendments, including one banning marriage equality, be scrapped. The National Assembly is scheduled revisit the proposed constitutional reforms in the next legislative session in 2020. More »

Papua New Guinea

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 formalize civil unions. However, in April 2019, a local court affirmed the right of a lesbian couple, married in the US, to register their marriage in Peru, citing the Inter-American Court’s 2018 advisory opinion on marriage equality. The ruling could open the door to marriage equality in Peru. In the meantime, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, introduced in 2016, remained pending in Congress at time of writing. More »


The Philippine Congress failed in 2019 to pass pending legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, health care, housing, and other domains. It also has not passed legislation recognizing same-sex partnerships and extending benefits to same-sex couples. More »


In March 2020, Polish authorities indicated they were planning to sue a group of LGBT rights activists who had created an “Atlas of Hate,” which mapped anti-LGBT provisions that had been instituted across the country. Parliamentarians continued to pursue legislation that would criminalize sex education in schools. Throughout 2019 and in early 2020, Polish women's and LGBT rights groups came under sustained attack, with leaders in the ruling party attacking “gender ideology” and sexuality education in schools. More »


Qatar’s penal code criminalizes “sodomy,” punishing same-sex relations with imprisonment between one to three years. More »


In January 2020 authorities pursued “gay propaganda” charges against an LGBT rights activist for drawings depicting same-sex couples she had posted to her social media accounts. In early 2019 police in Chechnya carried out a new round of arbitrary detentions, beatings, and humiliation of men they presume to be gay or bisexual. The new abuses came against a backdrop of complete impunity for the vicious large-scale anti-gay purge in spring 2017. More »


Samoa punishes sodomy with up to five years in prison. More »

Saudi Arabia

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 »


Both Belgrade and Kosovo held Pride parades in September and October 2018 respectively, which took place without major incidents. However, 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 LGBT rights activists continued. Investigations are often slow and prosecutions rare. More »

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s 1861 law punishes buggery with up to life in prison. More »


On March 30, 2020, the Singapore High Court dismissed three cases seeking to strike down a colonial-era law that makes consensual gay sex a crime. More »

Solomon Islands

The penal code of the Solomon Islands punishes buggery and indecent practices with up to 14 years in prison. More »


Somalia’s penal code, currently being revised, punishes same-sex intercourse with a period of imprisonment between three months and three years. More »

South Africa

On March 25, 2019 the South African government launched a National Action Plan to combat Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (NAP). The NAP expressly recognizes that LGBT individuals constitute a priority group given the constitutional goals of equality and non-discrimination and the need for protection against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. More »

South Korea

The growing LGBT movement in South Korea continues to trigger increased resistance by conservative Christian anti-LGBT groups. In June 2019, Seoul's 20th Pride Parade saw record participation with around 70,000 people, but mushrooming LGBT events outside the capital still face local resistance. More »

South Sudan

South Sudan punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to 10 years in prison and a fine, under section 248 of its 2008 Penal Code Act. More »

Sri Lanka

Sections 365 and 365A of Sri Lanka’s penal code 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

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 »

St. Lucia

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. Under the same code, a person who commits “buggery” with the consent of another person can be sentenced to 10 years in prison. More »

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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 »


In July 2020, Sudan’s Sovereign Council amended the penal code, removing some crimes from the books and reducing sentences for others, including sodomy. Previously, the death penalty was punishment for individuals accused by committing “homosexual sex” defined by the act of penetration, for the third time. For people found guilty of this offense for the first time, sentences were lashing 100 times or prison up to 5 years. For the second time, the sentence was both punishments combined. More »


Article 520 of the Syrian Penal Code of 1949 prohibits “unnatural sexual intercourse,” punishable by imprisonment by up to three years. Article 517 punishes crimes “against public decency” that are carried out in public with imprisonment of three months to three years. More »


In May 2019, lawmakers in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a landmark decision, making Taiwan the first country in Asia to pass marriage equality legislation. More »


LGBT people face discrimination in Tajikistan, although same-sex conduct is not criminalized. More »


Tanzania’s Sexual Offenses Special Provisions Act of 1998 makes consensual adult same-sex conduct punishable by up to life imprisonment. 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. More »


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. More »

Trinidad and Tobago

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 steps to carry out this pledge. More »


In an April 19, 2019 ruling, an Ankara court struck down a blanket ban on public events in Ankara by LGBTI rights groups imposed by the Ankara governor in 2017, and in March 2020, a district court ruled that a second ban on LGBTI activities in Ankara that authorities had instituted in 2018 was unlawful and struck it down. However, activists reported that individual bans on public LGBTI events continued to be imposed in the city. 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. More »


Uganda’s colonial-era law prohibits “carnal knowledge” among people of the same sex, and crackdowns on LGBT activists and ordinary people continue. More »


The police response to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Ukraine was uneven. In his statement following a visit to Ukraine in April 2019, the UN independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity noted that the police only registered 15 criminal offenses against LGBT people while non-governmental organizations recorded 358 cases of violence, discrimination and other violations motivated by anti-LGBT bias. This suggests that the authorities are not effectively documenting and prosecuting offenses against LGBT people. More »

United Arab Emirates

Article 356 of the federal penal code criminalizes (but does not define) “indecent assault” and provides for a minimum sentence of one year in prison. UAE courts use this article to convict and sentence people for same-sex relations as well as consensual heterosexual relations outside marriage. More »

United Kingdom

On March 10, 2020, a Court of Appeal ruled against a plaintiff who had sought compel the UK government to issue them a passport with a non-binary “X” marker in lieu of a “female” or “male” sex marker. More »

United States

In January 2019, the Supreme Court permitted a ban by the administration of Donald Trump on transgender service in the military to take effect while a legal challenge to the ban proceeds. The Department of Health and Human Services in May proposed a rule that would narrow how it defines sex discrimination, permitting insurers and health care providers to discriminate against transgender patients. At least 26 transgender people were killed in the United States in 2019. 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 »


Yemen’s penal code prohibits same-sex relations. More »


Zambia’s penal code punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with seven years to life in prison. More »


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 »