LGBT: All you need to know about the community

Before the Supreme Court resumes the hearing on Wednesday, let's analyse the British-era law that makes homosexuality a crime and the curse it brings along for the LGBT community.

The five-judge Constitutional bench of Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on Tuesday heard a number of pleas challenging the re-criminalisation of unnatural sex between two adults of the same gender.

Before the Supreme Court resumes the hearing on Wednesday, let’s analyse the British-era law that makes homosexuality a crime and the curse it brings along for the LGBT community.

What is LGBT?

The acronym LGBT has been in use since 1990’s and stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. People around the world face violence and inequality—and sometimes torture, even execution—because of who they love, how they look, or who they are. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse. Human Rights Watch works for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender peoples’ rights, and with activists representing a multiplicity of identities and issues.

Lesbian is the word used to describe a girl or a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted to other girls or women.

Gay is the word used to describe a boy or a man who is romantically and sexually attracted to other boys or men

Bisexual is the word used to describe a person who is romantically and sexually attracted to both people, of the opposite sex and of the same sex.

Transgender is a term used to describe someone who does not conform to society’s view of being a male or female, the sex which they were assigned at birth.

What is sexual orientation?

According to researchers Susan Cochran and Vickie Mays, sexual orientation includes the following dimensions: sexual attraction; sexual behaviour; sexual fantasies; emotional, social, and lifestyle preferences; and self-identification

A long way to go

There are 73 countries where homosexual activity is illegal.

And only five countries in the world – Bolivia, Ecuador, Fiji, Malta and the UK – have constitutions that explicitly guarantee equality for citizens on the basis of sexual orientation as well as gender identity, according to a recent UCLA study.

Where is homosexuality still illegal?

The research shows that consensual sexual activity between individuals of the same sex is legal across much of the northern hemisphere. But across swathes of Asia, Africa and the Middle East it remains illegal.

In some countries like Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, it is punishable by death.

In other countries, it’s illegal only for men. For example, in Turkmenistan, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe homosexuality is illegal for men but legal for women. No country practices vice versa.

Where can same-sex couples get married?

Despite many countries legally recognizing same-sex couples, some of them still outlaw same-sex marriage. Colombia legalized same-sex marriage in the last year, but it became illegal in Botswana. Germany legalised same-sex marriage earlier this year, as did Malta, Bermuda and Finland.

Conversion therapy

Many places in the world continue to allow conversion therapy, which attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation.


A surprising number of countries don’t discriminate against LGBT people joining the military. US President Donald Trump announced in the summer a ban on transgender personal serving in the military, but at the end of October 2017 a judge blocked the ban.

Changing gender

The right to change gender is legal throughout most of the world, but in most places only after surgery. It is still illegal in around 20 countries.


Banning discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is illegal in only a handful of countries.

Much of the world offers no protection at all.

Employment discrimination

There are only a few parts of the world where employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Housing discrimination

Although source information is patchy, it’s clear that the LGBT community continues to face discrimination when trying to find appropriate housing.

Blood donations

Several countries made blood donations by gay men legal in the last year, but many are still subject to deferrals (a waiting time before a man can donate after having sex). Blood donation by gay men became legal in countries including Romania, Georgia, Venezuela, Ethiopia and Ireland. But it was banned in Norway, and a one-year deferral period was introduced in Switzerland.

Same-sex adoption

Across much of the world, same-sex couples cannot legally adopt a child. In those countries where same-sex adoption is legal, many stipulate that couples must be married, or can only do it if they are single. In some cases, they can only adopt stepchildren.

Gay Marriage Around the World

A growing number of governments around the world are considering whether to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages. So far, more than two dozen countries have enacted national laws allowing gays and lesbians to marry, mostly in Europe and the Americas. In Mexico, some jurisdictions allow same-sex couples to wed, while others do not.

Countries That Allow Gay Marriage

Argentina (2010), Greenland (2015), South Africa (2006), Australia (2017), Iceland (2010), Spain (2005), Belgium (2003), Ireland (2015), United States (2015),Brazil (2013), Luxembourg (2014), Sweden (2009), Canada (2005), Malta (2017), Colombia (2016), Uruguay (2013), Denmark (2012), The Netherlands (2000), England / Wales (2013), New Zealand (2013), Finland (2015), Norway (2008), France (2013), Portugal (2010), Germany (2017) , Scotland (2014)

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