LGBT world 2012: victories, setbacks, close calls

Published: December 24, 2012

Attack on LGBT protesters in Moscow. (Still photo from video, courtesy of Sky News)

The idea that people should be thrown in jail for loving the wrong people fell out of favor in a few countries in 2012.

But the battle for basic human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people raged from Singapore to Moscow and from sub-Saharan Africa to the Caribbean.

During the year, advocates of LGBT rights achieved some victories, suffered some setbacks, and narrowly avoided a few potentially heart-wrenching defeats.

Among people of faith who joined the fray, the loudest voices spoke of condemnation for LGBT people, not love, often bolstered by a stubborn insistence that people can choose whom they will be attracted to sexually. In contrast, religious leaders who emphasize the commandment to love your neighbor were often distracted by other issues, or their calls for reconciliation were drowned out.

For many people in the Americas and Western Europe, disputes over distant countries’ anti-homosexuality laws were overshadowed by joy or worries about the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, which is now legal in 11 countries, in parts of Mexico and Brazil, and in nine states in the United States.

Also in the background were repeated instances of unpunished murders of LGBT people and the ongoing spread of HIV infection among gay men who are typically denied health services in the 76-plus countries with laws against homosexual activity.


During 2012, India and Malawi — two of those 76-plus countries — took steps to repeal or suspend enforcement of their discriminatory laws.  Another four countries moved in that direction.

In India this year, the supreme court let stand a lower-court ruling that overturned a British colonial-era law providing life sentences for homosexual activity.  A similar court proceeding is under way in Singapore.

In Africa, Malawi suspended enforcement of a British-originated law providing 14-year prison sentences for homosexual acts.

In South America, Guyana is in the midst of a formal governmental evaluation of whether to repeal the law calling for life sentences for male-male sex acts.

In the Caribbean, the government in Trinidad and Tobago is pushing to outlaw discrimination against LGBT people, including repeal of the anti-LGBT law that allows for prison sentences of up to 25 years for sexual activity.

In Europe, a court case is under way that seeks to overturn a law calling for five-year prison sentences for male-male sexual activity in Northern Cyprus, which is overseen by Turkey.  The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is the only part of Europe with a law against homosexual behavior, including Turkey itself.

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