Homophobia Kills: "I Hope the Victory Will Be Spreading around the World and There Will Be No Criminalization for Sexual Orientation Anymore," Said Poedjiati Tan, Female Representative of International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) Asia

Article excerpt


On June 30, 2009 the Delhi High Court overturned a 148-year-old colonial law criminalising consensual homosexual acts, saying that it was a violation of fundamental human rights protected under India's Constitution. This moment of joy for the LGBTIQ (2) movement in India is shared by many in the world who supported them in their struggle.

In the last decades, the world has seen incredible changes in terms of LGBT rights in many countries across the globe and in all continents. In December 2008 the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was signed by 66 countries. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem Pillay described the criminalisation of same sex relations "in defiance of established human rights law" (3).

At the same time, 80 countries around the world are still crinamalising LGBT people for what they are. In five of them--Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, parts of Nigeria and Somalia, LGBT risk death penalty by being themselves. In Burundi, Africa despite international protests a revision of the Penal Code was signed into law in April 2009 that for the first time in the countries' herstory criminalises same-sex relations.

ILGA published its updated report on state sponsored homophobia in May 2009. It describes the legal situation in these 80 countries. It also shows the progress and victories with regards to LGBT rights such as which countries penalise discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and recognise gender identities different from heterosexual patterns and which countries introduced same sex registered partnership or marriage.

The governments that criminalise LGBT people's choices in life "cry out against a homosexual orientation as totally extraneous to their national culture, a poisoned gift imported from the decadent west, without noticing the paradox of enforcing--at the same time--homophobic laws, which represent the worst legacy of their colonial past or of a religion imported from elsewhere." (4)

The decriminalisation of homosexuality and the protection of LGBT rights as well as the introduction of same sex registered partnership had in most countries a very positive effect such as less violence against LGBT people. People who were once confined to the closet are able to come out and live their love and gender identity openly, less stigmatisation and stereotyping. There is more tolerance towards variances to patriarchal heteronormativity. "Even though I am not a supporter of the patriarchal institution of marriage, it feels differently walking in public hand in hand with my partner knowing that my love has the blessing of the majority of the Swiss voting population who accepted the law on a registered partnership inferior to marriage." commented a Swiss lesbian activist in 2005 after the plebiscite on same sex registered partnership.

Unfortunately by no way all this positive developments mean an end to violence against LGBT people. Lesbians and female transgender persons are among the most vulnerable to so called hate crimes.

The countries' macho politics lead to lack of action despite hate crimes against lesbians

South Africa was the first state worldwide that placed sexual orientation under the protection of constitutional law. Lately, an alarming number of black lesbians are being raped for their gender identity and sexual orientation. Triangle, a South African g a y rights organisation, says they are dealing with up to 10 new cases of "corrective rape" every week.


Despite more than 30 reported murders of lesbians in the last decade, the trial against the murder of the famous out lesbian player of the national female football squad Eudy Simelane produced the first conviction of all the "corrective rapes" perpetuated against black lesbians in South Africa. Eudy Simelane was gang-raped and brutally murdered in 2008. …