Gay Rights Across the World – Advancements and Backlashes

The world is going through an interesting phase when it comes to gay rights. While there are advancements happening on LGBT rights at all fronts, the pace is certainly vastly different at different parts of the world. In fact, in some places, the situation of LGBT people is in fact worsening. But before going any further, it would be prudent to have a look at some of the major developments in the last few months.

The biggest news that dominated the world was of course the US Supreme Court’s judgement that made same-sex marriages legal across the country. It was a huge win for the proponents of marriage equality, whose effects were sure to reverberate across the world. Despite being a world leader, LGBT rights have somewhat lagged in USA when compared to a few other nations of the world. Though same-sex marriages were legal in a few states within USA, others had brought in laws to specifically ban such marriages. The fight over the right to marry reached the courts, and finally on 26th of June the US Supreme court settled the matter once and for all. It is interesting how history tends to repeat itself. On the same day (26th June), had occurred what is now known as Stonewall Riots, which signifies the spirit to fight back for justice and rights.

But just days after such a big win, gay rights rally in Istanbul, Turkey was attacked by police. It may be noted that Turkey is the only muslim country to have a LGBT pride march, and the march has seen participation in thousands over the years. However, things haven’t been going smoothly for LGBT people in the country since the new conservative President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken over. It was shocking for participants to find themselves attacked with water canons by the police. On the otherhand, ISIS continues to horrify the world with its abuse and violence, and there have been shocking images of people the group suspected of being homosexual, being thrown off the buildings.

A participant in the Gay Pride event in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights reacts as others flee after Turkish police use a water canon to disperse them in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Turkish police have used water cannons and tear gas to clear gay pride demonstrators from Istanbul's central square. Between 100 and 200 protestors were chased away from Taksim Square on Sunday after a police vehicle fired several jets of water to disperse the crowd. It wasn't immediately clear why the police intervened to push the peaceful if noisy protest away from the area. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A participant in the Gay Pride event in support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) rights reacts as others flee after Turkish police use a water canon to disperse them in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A participant at Istanbul resists the use of water canon by Police(Photo: Reuters)
A participant at Istanbul resists the use of water canon by Police(Photo: Reuters)

The US Supreme Court judgement was bound to have repercussions across the world, and in India, newspapers quoted the Law Minister as saying that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises “sex against the order of nature” and is used as a tool of violence against LGBTs in India, could soon be gone. However, the minister issued a statement within hours of the report being published, claiming that he had been misquoted and there was no such intention of the government. A member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party went on to claim that the party considers homosexuality a mental disorder. On the other hand, transgender rights are progressing in India with the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Parliament, unanimously passing an important bill for transgender rights. It now needs to be passed in the Lower House to become a law. More disturbingly, the Government of India also decided to block over 850 porn sites, but had to roll back the ban after backlash from all quarters. The porn ban is only the latest in the series of things the conservative BJP government is banning.

Another European country Ireland, passed an important legislation that ‘allows transgender people to gain legal recognition without seeing a doctor or needing medical treatment’. In another historic ruling, the European Court ruled ‘that not recognising same-sex couples is a breach of their human rights’. On his recent visit to African continent, US President Barack Obama raised the issue of LGBT rights. African countries remain deeply homophobic, and the voicing of concern by President Obama shows the growing importance of LGBT rights in the global discourse.

From a cursory look at these major developments, it is evident that if there are happy advancements, there is a rise in conservative forces in parts of the world too which seek to undo the progress done. In such a scenario it becomes imperative for world leaders and progressive countries maintain diplomatic pressure on other countries and state unambiguously that LGBT rights form a key part of human rights discourse.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”