One Year On Since Repeal of Section 377 in India: a Third of the World’s Countries Continue to Criminalize Same-Sex Relations


5 September 2019

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša,, +1 (917) 622-1865

One Year On Since Repeal of Section 377 in India: a Third of the World's Countries Continue to Criminalize Same-Sex Relations

(New York) September 6th marks a year since the Supreme Court of India made the historic decision to decriminalize same-sex relations, causing reverberations across the world, and symbolizing the global trend towards decriminalization.

Maria Sjödin, Deputy Director of OutRight Action International, comments:

“Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which made sexual behavior “against the order of nature” illegal and punishable by imprisonment, served as a model for similar laws across the British Colonial Empire. As such, its fall marked a significant step forward in the recognition and promotion of the human rights of LGBTIQ people not only in India, but around the world.”

Indeed, several countries have followed suit. In the year since India repealed its ban on same-sex relations, Angola, Botswana, and Bhutan have done the same. A commission appointed by the President has recommended decriminalization in Tunisia. Moreover, legal challenges have been mounted in Singapore and across the Caribbean, where over half of the countries still criminalize same-sex relations. In July court proceedings challenging so-called "buggery" and "gross indecency" laws were filed in St Vincent and the Grenadines and in Dominica. A petition filed last year with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights challenging the “buggery” laws of Barbados - which has one of the strictest such laws prescribing life imprisonment - has also moved forward and been communicated to the island nation giving it three months to respond. If favourable, the commission’s opinion and subsequent actions have the potential to have a ripple effect across the entire region. 

However, despite the momentum towards decriminalization, 68 countries around the world still criminalize same-sex relations, a handful of which prescribe the death penalty.

More frighteningly still, a movement against decriminalization has emerged. In May Kenya’s High Court refused to decriminalize same-sex relations, claiming that decriminalization would contradict Kenya’s constitutional values and indirectly open the door to same-sex marriage. Moreover, some countries, such as Egypt and Indonesia, which have not had laws criminalizing same-sex relations in the past, have taken steps to introduce such bans.

Maria Sjödin, Deputy Director of OutRight Action International, comments:

It is shocking that long outdated, predominantly colonial-era laws criminalizing same-sex relations still exist in a third of the countries in the world. The prevalence of these laws, and the move towards criminalization of consensual same-sex acts in countries which have never had such bans in the past, is a frightening reminder of the continuing perception of LGBTIQ people as immoral, unnatural and even threatening to societies. This should serve as a call to action to everyone, because inequality, stigmatization, harassment of LGBTIQ people does not only affect LGBTIQ communities - it affects every single one of us who somehow does not fit the arbitrarily assigned perceptions of what constitutes the norm.” 




Every day around the world, LGBTIQ people’s human rights and dignity are abused in ways that shock the conscience. The stories of their struggles and their resilience are astounding, yet remain unknown—or willfully ignored—by those with the power to make change. OutRight Action International, founded in 1990 as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, works alongside LGBTIQ people in the Global South, with offices in six countries, to help identify community-focused solutions to promote policy for lasting change. We vigilantly monitor and document human rights abuses to spur action when they occur. We train partners to expose abuses and advocate for themselves. Headquartered in New York City, OutRight is the only global LGBTIQ-specific organization with a permanent presence at the United Nations in New York that advocates for human rights progress for LGBTIQ people.