By Sabir Shah -
LAHORE: Fully recognised as a reality by 113 countries of the world that have legalised and decriminalised homosexuality over the years, the concept of same-sex union is still illegal in 76 nations and punishable by death in five countries - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Yemen and Sudan.
The Muslim countries where homosexuality is legal include Mali, Jordan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Azerbaijan etc.
As a large number of Pakistanis, including the religious clerics and parliamentarians, are infuriated over the June 26, 2011 gay, lesbians and transgender pride celebration ceremony that was hosted by the US Embassy in Islamabad, less than a month after President Obama had proclaimed equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity in his May 31, 2011 speech, chances are bright that criticism against America may gain momentum in coming days provided the Pakistani media highlights the issue.
A curious peek into the concept of homosexuality and facts consequently collected from numerous United Nations documents and the most recent survey report of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Inter-sex Association (ILGA) reveal that people are also put to death for their sexual orientation in Southern Somalia and about 12 Nigerian states. It formerly carried the death penalty in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule and in Iraq under a 2001 decree by Saddam Hussein.
With reference to Sudan, anybody found guilty of committing sodomy for the third time in this country is stoned to death or gets life imprisonment, but the punishment for the first and second time same-sex activity is a jail term of up to five years, accompanied by 100 lashes.
Iran is perhaps the only nation to execute the largest number of its citizens for homosexuality. Since the Islamic revolution, the Iranian government has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Inter-sex Association, which was founded in 1978 with a mission to achieve equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and inter-sex people in every corner of the globe, has 700 member organizations in 110 countries today.
The hectic efforts of ILGA bore fruit when on December 18, 2008 the United Nations General Assembly finally recognized the rights of gay and lesbian people, through support from 66 countries.
It goes without saying that since the end of 19th century, voices have been raised throughout the West for recognition of the queer people and various movements have since been advocating equal rights for the homosexuals, including their rights to marriages, adoption of children, employment and equal access to healthcare etc.
With the signatures of the United States in 2009, the aforementioned UN declaration had enjoyed the support of 67 countries till two years ago and the document was signed by every European and Western nation.
An opposing statement, however, was put forward by 57 Muslim nations. This year, no less than 85 countries at the UN Human Rights Council have condemned the persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The most common terms for homosexual people are lesbian for women and gay for men, though gay is also used to refer generally to both homosexual men and women.
According to the ILGA, homosexuality is legal in the following 113 countries:
Germany (1968), Greece (1951), Canada (1969), United States (2003), Australia, Hungary (1962), Iceland (1940), Ireland (1993), Italy (1890), Kosovo (1994), Latvia (1992), Liechtenstein (1989), Lithuania (1993), Luxembourg (1795), Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde (2004), Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Congo, Equatorial Guinea (1931), Gabon, Guinea-Bissau (1993), Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa (1998), Cambodia, China (1997), East Timor (1975), India (2009), Indonesia, Israel (1988), Japan (1882), Jordan (1951), Kazakhstan (1998), Kyrgyzstan (1998), Laos, Mongolia (1987), Nepal (2007), North Korea, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan (1896), Tajikistan (1998), Thailand (1957), Turkey (1858), Vietnam, West Bank in the Palestinian Authority, Albania (1995), Andorra, Armenia (2003), Austria (1971), Azerbaijan (2000), Belgium (1795), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998), Bulgaria (1968), Croatia (1977), Cyprus (1998), Czech Republic (1962), Denmark (1933), Estonia (1992), Finland (1971), France (1791), Georgia (2000), Macedonia (1996), Malta (1973), Moldova (1995), Monaco (1793), Montenegro (1977), the Netherlands (1811), Norway (1972), Poland (1932), Portugal (1983), Romania (1996), Russia (1993), San Marino (1865), Serbia (1994), Slovakia (1962), Slovenia (1977), Spain (1979), Sweden (1944), Switzerland (1942), Ukraine (1991), United Kingdom, Vatican City (1929), Argentina (1887), Bahamas (1991), Bolivia, Brazil (1831), Costa Rica (1971), Chile (1999), Colombia (1981), Cuba (1979), Dominican Republic, Ecuador (1997), El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras (1899), Mexico (1872), Nicaragua (2008), Panama (2008), Paraguay (1880), Peru (1836), Suriname (1869), Uruguay (1934), Venezuela as well as the Dutch associates Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, Fiji (2010), Marshall Islands (2005), Micronesia, New Zealand (1986), Vanuatu, the New Zealand associates of Niue (2007), and Tokelau (2007).
While countries such as South Africa, Iceland, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Argentina and Canada etc also allow same-sex couples to tie a marital knots, the likes of South Africa, Israel, Andorra, Norway, Spain, Sweden, UK, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, US, Mexico, Australia and Iceland etc also let same-sex couples to adopt children.
Homosexuality is illegal in the following 76 countries: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania (death penalty), Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria (death penalty in some states), Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan (death penalty), Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, Iran (death penalty), Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (death penalty), Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen (death penalty), Gaza Strip in the Palestinian Authority, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and the New Zealand associate of Cook Islands.
Extensive research conducted by The News International also shows that in India, the Delhi High Court had declared Homosexuality legal on July 2, 2009, while the United States had formally permitted same sex activities among consenting adults in 2003.
To be continued