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The Acceptance of Homosexuality in the International Community

Content Warning: Anti-LGBT+ sentiment and legislation

The progressive atmosphere surrounding the acceptance of homosexuality has gradually developed within the international community. From state leaders, such as President Biden of the United States endorsing the acceptance of LGBTQIA, to religious figures including Pope Francis providing partial acceptance towards homosexuality with statements like; “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge,” social norms surrounding homosexuality have continued to evolve. Despite some international figures extending a hand of acceptance towards embracing homosexuality as a norm, many states today still maintain a criminal standard towards homosexuality.

TW: Non-consensual medical procedures 

In the instances where states have maintained progressive legal standards towards homosexuality, the exercising of those rights may receive a negative response that contradicts the current legal standing. This generally depicts a country’s societal stance towards their acceptance of homosexuality. This negative response could be exercised through the absence of lawful condemnation in response to unnecessary harassment towards an individual solely on the basis that they are a homosexual or merely through exercising progressive policies at face-value . For example, “states and international bodies have commended Tunisia for its progress on human rights, the criminalization and prosecution of homosexual conduct signals otherwise (Human Rights Watch, 2020).” 

Tunisia had publicly advocated at the UPR to end forceful anal exams to prove one is a homosexual but Tunisia’s delegation stated “Medical examination will be conducted based on the consent of the person, in the presence of a medical examiner.” This presents a warm embrace towards the inclusion of homosexuality as a norm but through further examination, the standard of voluntary “consent” is essentially a facade. There is a precedent within Tunisia that the absence of consent will generally be interpreted as “guilt from a refusal to undergo the exam” by trial courts, displaying the concept “damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”  Although one may have the option of denying consent, denial is somehow acknowledged as enough motive to conduct intrusive procedures. Countries such as Cameroon, Kenya, and Tunisia still maintain this “forced” anal examination even though “the outdated practice has been widely discredited by health care professionals and amounts to sexual assault (Peltier, 2021).”

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TW: Anti-LGBT+ violence and graphic descriptions of injury and death

Other states and communities are more transparent about their legal and societal disapproval of homosexuality. For example, in 2013 the executive director of the Cameroonian Foundations for Aids (CAMFAIDS), Eric Ohena Lembembe, had been tortured and murdered at his home. His friends who had discovered his body described it saying, “Lembembe’s neck and feet appeared to have been broken, and his face, hands, and feet had been burned with an iron.” Mr. Lembembe was an activist and journalist whose death had followed the attacks on the offices of human rights offenders, the burglary of a human rights lawyer, and the burning of Douala’s headquarters of Alternatives- Cameroun which provided HIV services to the LGBTQI community (Human Rights Watch, 2013). Consecutive organized hate crimes targeted those who supported the inclusion of homosexuality within Cameroon and directly attempted to silence both influential figures of the movement and anyone in general who identified with it.

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This intolerance of homosexuality is still displayed in Cameroon today. “Two transgender women were sentenced this week in Cameroon to five years in prison after they were found guilty of ‘attempted homosexuality’ and public indecency (Peltier, 2021).” The sentencing was the maximum sentence under Cameron’s legal punishment for participating in sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender which does not appropriately charge the transgender women since they were arrested while eating dinner in a public space without any display of intimacy according to their lawyers. The blatant invasion of personal livelihood and the baseless claims citizens are capable of proposing so that legal punishment can follow someone in response to one’s identity is a clear example of to what extent bigotry still exists towards homosexuality in Cameroon.

Contrary to Cameroon, Guyana is a more progressive state that partially accepts homosexuality as a societal norm but only the homosexuality of women. Within Section 352 of Guyana’s Criminal Law (Offences Act), it states “Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission, or procures or attempts to procure the commission, by any male person, of any act of gross indecency with any other male person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for two years.” The Criminal Law (Offences Act) specifically removes the scrutinization of women emotionally and sexually interacting with each other while criminally penalizing men for the same relations. Although Guyana does not recognize two women being married to each other, this prejudice of homosexuality among perceived binary genders could be a product of Guyana’s acceptance towards polygamous marriages and thus will tolerate multiple women interacting with one another but not men.  

Acceptance of homosexuality has gained traction within the international community to the extent where legal punishment is exerted by the state to protect homosexual behavior and relationships. Homosexuality is not a crime that one should be punished for but some countries and communities still exercise outdated, intrusive, and harsh responses towards homosexual behavior. We see countries gradually becoming more accepting but have yet to fully embrace the diverse inherent behavioral spectrum of people. Carter, a 19-year-old from Monrovia, summarizes it in an interview with the Human Rights Watch as “People don’t just come up with that kind of life. It’s something you are born with… If I love a boy, it’s nature, not a crime.”































Citations: 


Cameroon: LGBTI Rights Activist Found Dead, Tortured, Human Rights Watch,  July 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/16/cameroon-lgbti-rights-activist-found-dead-tortured 


Human Dignity Trust, https://www.humandignitytrust.org/lgbt-the-law/map-of-criminalisation/ 


Laws on Homosexuality in African Nations, The Law Library of Congress, 2014, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/criminal-laws-on-homosexuality/homosexuality-laws-in-african-nations.pdf 


“It’s Nature, Not a Crime” Discriminatory Laws and LGBT people in Liberia, Human Rights Watch, 

Peltier Elian, Cameroon Sentences 2 Transgender Women to 5 Years in Prison, New York Times, A10, May 2021

 

Saner Emine, Gay rights around the world: the best and worst countries for equality, The Guardian, July 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/30/gay-rights-world-best-worst-countries 


The Week Staff, The countries where homosexuality is illegal, The Week, April 2020, https://www.theweek.co.uk/96298/the-countries-where-homosexuality-is-still-illegal 


Tunisia: Two-Year Sequence for Homosexuality Arbitrary Detention; Reported Attempt to Require Discredited Anal Exam, Human Rights Watch, July 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/06/tunisia-two-year-sentence-homosexuality# 

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