IDAHOBIT … The countries where it is illegal to be gay … Alphabet Soup … “Conversion therapy” … Hugs



The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) was created in 2004 to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.

The date of 17 May was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organisation’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The day is now celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex acts are illegal. Thousands of initiatives, big and small, are reported throughout the planet.

IDAHOBIT has received official recognition from several States, international institutions such as the European Parliament, and by countless local authorities. Most United Nations agencies also mark the Day with specific events. Even if every year a “global focus issue” is promoted, IDAHOBIT is not one centralised campaign; rather it is a moment that everyone can take advantage of to take action, on whatever issue and in whatever format that they wish.

Homosexuality: The countries where it is illegal to be gay

A crackdown on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Cameroon has resulted in the arrest or assault by security forces of dozens of people this year, according to Human Rights Watch.

In the most recent incident, two transgender Cameroonians have been sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of “attempted homosexuality”.

Where is homosexuality still outlawed?

There are 69 countries that have laws that criminalise homosexuality, and nearly half of these are in Africa.

However, in some countries there have been moves to decriminalise same-sex unions.

In February this year, Angola’s President Joao Lourenco signed into law a revised penal code to allow same-sex relationships and bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In June last year, Gabon reversed a law that had criminalised homosexuality and made gay sex punishable with six months in prison and a large fine.

Botswana’s High Court also ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality in 2019.

Mozambique and the Seychelles have also scrapped anti-homosexuality laws in recent years.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a court in 2018 ruled that laws banning gay sex were unconstitutional.

But there are countries where existing laws outlawing homosexuality have been tightened, including Nigeria and Uganda. In others, efforts to get the laws removed have failed.

A court in Singapore dismissed a bid to overturn a law that prohibits gay sex early last year.

In May 2019, the high court in Kenya upheld laws criminalising homosexual acts.

Colonial legacy

Many of the laws criminalising homosexual relations originate from colonial times.

In many places, breaking these laws could be punishable by long prison sentences.

Out of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth – a loose association of countries most of them former British colonies – 36 have laws that criminalise homosexuality.

Countries that criminalise homosexuality today also have criminal penalties against women who have sex with women, although the original British laws applied only to men.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) monitors the progress of laws relating to homosexuality around the world.

It says the death penalty is the legally prescribed punishment for same-sex sexual acts in Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and in the northern states in Nigeria.

Sudan repealed the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts last year.

In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates, the laws against same-sex relations do not prescribe the death penalty, but it’s still been used in some instances.

An Indian gay rights activist protests against a court ruling in 2013 upholding a law which criminalises gay sex.

Some observers note that the risk of prosecution in some places is minimal.

For example, a 2017 report on Jamaica by the UK Home Office said that Jamaica was regarded as a homophobic society, but that the “authorities do not actively seek to prosecute LGBT persons”.

Activist groups say the ability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) organisations to carry out advocacy work is being restricted.

Changing trend

There is a global trend toward decriminalising same-sex acts.

So far, 28 countries in the world recognise same-sex marriages, and 34 others provide for some partnership recognition for same-sex couples, ILGA says.

As of December 2020, 81 countries had laws against discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. Twenty years ago, there were only 15.

Full list of countries where homosexuality is outlawed:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Antigua & Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Brunei, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Cook Islands, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian Territory (Gaza Strip), Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Alphabet Soup of Identity

How did we get from Gay to LGBT to LGBTQIA to LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP etc? Who or what constitutes inclusion? There was much soul-searching and sometimes acrimonious debate on whether to add Bi and Trans. Moreso, when Intersex or Asexual are considered.

Young people appear to have reclaimed “Queer”, but how can this suffice as an all-inclusive umbrella word as this upsets too many of our generation that experienced “queer-bashing”?

Certainly, defining characteristics are being “other” and minority.

Does everyone / anyone even want to be included? Some LGBs don’t want Trans included. Some Trans people who identify as straight don’t see why they are included.

In the UK during 2018-19 calls from a minority of Lesbians to “Get the L Out” came in response to disagreements over Trans inclusion and conflation of sex and gender identity.

Many European LGBT+ rights and policy groups have gone LGBTI. Yet, has anyone asked Intersex people if they want including? Stonewall did, and half those invited wanted in, the other half, out – so stalemate and Stonewall evolved to be LGBT but not LGBTI – even that caused trouble for some.

Two Hundred Identities

There are some 100 to 200 identities now used to describe sex, gender, sexuality, and romantic attraction – or their lack thereof. Many of these overlap and there are 40+ acronyms attempting to summarise them:

LGBT – These 4 letters do not cover all the sexes, genders or sexualities;


Some alternatives have been trialled eg GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities), but in the end, LGBT has stuck, though for a while, and particularly in the USA, GLBT was prominent whilst LGBT or LGBTQ with or without + are now considered more internationally universal.

Some one suggested: “We do seem to expend so much energy over this naming business. There’s only one sure way of ending the alphabet soup nonsense, It’s LGBTQQINQBHTHOWTB – LGBTQQ Not Queer But Happy To Help Out When They’re Busy or it could be shortened to LGW (Lesbian, Gay or Whatever)”.

The dilemma of those wanting to keep it short is their disregard of anyone but gay or lesbian and the historical who came first privilege.

One of the longest seen is the safe space advertised at Wesleyan University in Connnecticut, USA:


“a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderfuck, Polyamourous, Bondage / Discipline, Dominance / Submission, Sadism / Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities. The goals of Open House include generating interest in a celebration of queer life from the social to the political to the academic. Open House works to create a Wesleyan community that appreciates the variety and vivacity of gender, sex and sexuality.” 

At Out In The City we usually use LGBT+ communities, but someone, somewhere, will dispute the inclusion or omission of every or any letter. What do you think?

“Conversion therapy”

On 11 May, the Government announced its plans to ban LGBT “conversion therapy”, as part of the Queen’s Speech. The Government’s plans are intended to introduce laws which will protect people from being subjected to the practice. 

The Government has also announced the creation of a support fund for LGBT people impacted by “conversion therapy”. 

Read more about the Government’s plans here.

Read the Queen’s Speech background briefing notes for more information on the Government’s proposed Bills here.

What is the Queen’s Speech?

The Queen’s Speech is the speech that the Queen reads out in the House of Lords Chamber on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament. 

It’s written by the Government and sets out the programme of Bills – new laws, and changes to existing laws – that the Government intends to put forward in this new Parliamentary session. A session of Parliament usually lasts around one year.  Once the Government puts forward a Bill in Parliament, Parliament then debates the Government’s proposal and decides whether to adopt the changes to the law set out in the Bill.


“Hugs,” everybody keeps saying. “Who do you most want to hug on 17 May?” It’s an absurd act of prudishness. The real headline, of course, is that this is the first day on which it will be legal (in England and most of Scotland, but not yet Wales or Northern Ireland) to have sex with a stranger since 22 March 2020.

So, is oral sex more Covid-safe than kissing? Should you have a lateral flow test before sex? Doctors, scientists and other experts answer the big questions here.

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