18 Mayo 2017 15:15
Homosexuality is illegal in 71 countries; in 12 of them it is punishable by death
Schools that teach that being gay is socially unacceptable; therapies that seek to 'cure' homosexuality; countries that punish same-sex sexual contact with the death penalty; and hate crimes being committed in refugee camps all over the world.
These findings form part of a report on the injustices and stigma still being suffered by LGBTI communities worldwide. The State-Sponsored Homophobia Report, published this month by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), shows that, despite much progress being made, homophobia still lurks in many pockets of the world.
Although homosexuality ceased to be considered a pathology decades ago, there are still many cases of families and friends of LGBTI people forcing them to undergo treatments. 'So far, this highly damaging practice is only banned in Brazil, Malta and Ecuador. It's incredible,' the study's co-author and social science researcher Aengus Carroll told PlayGround.
The story of Yu Hu, a 32-year-old man from Zhumadian in China, is a stark reminder of the gravity of the problem. Yu Hu was kidnapped last year by his family and locked up in a psychiatric hospital, where he was subjected to what doctors call 'sexuality correction therapy'.
His family were convinced they were saving him, but what they were actually doing was putting him through torture. He was held against his will, forced to take drugs, and subjected to verbal and physical abuse according to the South China Morning Post. This is just one example of the sorts of atrocities committed in the name of sexual correction. The experience often leaves victims devastated. 'After the therapy, people feel frustrated and completely lacking in self-esteem. Many of those who survive end up committing suicide,' says Carrol.
The LGBTI community is still a long way from feeling truly safe across the world. There are still 71 countries in which sexual relations between people of the same sex are illegal. And in twelve of those nations – eight of which are UN member states – homosexuality can be punishable by death. In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, part of Somalia and 12 Nigerian states, the state itself is the executioner. And while in Qatar, Mauritania, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates no death sentences have been issued in recent years, the possibility of imposing them remains. Meanwhile, in Iraq and Syria, brutal terrorist groups like ISIS take the law into their own hands.
This harsh reality has led countless LGBTI people to seek asylum in other countries to save their lives. But even after travelling thousands of miles from their home, these individuals' safety is far from guaranteed.
'After the therapy, people feel frustrated and completely lacking in self-esteem. Many of those who survive end up committing suicide'
In refugee camps all over the world, LGBTI people continue to suffer abuse, often at the hands of compatriots who refuse to recognise or respect their rights. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently warned that Ceuta in Spain has become an enclave of discrimination for asylum seekers from the LGBTI community. 'Sometimes, refugee camps are the most dangerous places for them to be. We've heard horrific stories about beatings and arrests, and extreme cases that have ended in death,' says Carroll.
There are also countries where, although homosexuality is not a crime, it is not allowed to be talked about publicly or taught in a positive way to children. In some US states for example, children learn that it is preferable not to be homosexual.
ILGA's report reveals that in Alabama and Texas, children are taught that 'homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle for the majority of the population', while in Arizona they refrain from teaching that 'same sex relations can be safe'. In Oklahoma, it is taught that 'gay sex is primarily responsible for the spread of AIDS'.
These values are passed on to children who haven't lived long enough to form their own judgements and are therefore highly impressionable. 'And now,' says Carroll, 'with the Trump administration we are seeing these sorts of values emerging with greater frequency and force.'
Such teachings undermine the advances made in recent years, like the legalisation of gay marriage which is now legal in 23 countries around the world. And, Carroll points out, as long as these sorts of ideas continue to be disseminated among – and absorbed by – young minds, there will continue to be discrimination, and there will continue to be people who feel stigmatised and afraid to express their true feelings.'