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For centuries, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been subjected to numerous forms of discrimination and violence, much of which has been state-sanctioned. 

Thankfully, over the past number of decades, members of sexual and gender minorities, in many parts of the world, have enjoyed a much greater degree of freedom from persecution. 

Indeed, great strides have been made in order to radically transform the experiences of LGBTQ+ people in a growing number of countries. This has liberated a substantial number of people from systemic oppression and brought them on a pathway moving towards more equal rights and greater opportunities. Over time, many governments have gradually faced up to the absurdity of criminalizing consensual activities between people of the same sex. The break away from authoritarian restrictions on same sex rights as a moralist enforcement has become is a necessary and welcome development.  

However, this process remains very far from being accomplished, since the majority of same-sex couples around the world still do not have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. 

Many people are still imprisoned or even executed simply because of who they love. Even in countries where homosexuality is not criminalized, fears of persecution and discrimination are never far away.

Some of the issues faced by LGBTQ+ people

In many places, the prospect of equal rights for LGBTQ+ people still seems very distant. Indeed, a staggering number of countries still enforce a variety of laws that discriminate against and infringe on the rights of LGBTQ+ people. These include legislation criminalizing consensual sexual activity between men in 72 countries and between women in 44 countries, 15 jurisdictions which criminalize transgender people, and 12 countries where people can be subject to capital punishment for their homosexuality. In some places, this is carried out by stoning. 

At least 6 countries, namely Iran, Nigeria (some northern states), Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, are known to have implemented the death penalty for homosexual activity, in recent years. There have also been executions reported in regions of Iraq and Syria, under the control of ISIS.

However, there are still other challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people, aside from criminalization. For example, Russia’s ban on ‘gay propaganda’, which condemns any positive portrayal of ‘non-traditional relationships,’ restricts freedom of expression and causes significant fear for many people who are worried that their sexuality may result in having their children taken from them by the state. There are similar laws in at least 32 UN member states.

Such government policies can also form part of a pattern, whereby certain sections of the population will not receive the same protections under the law. In an environment steeped in prejudice, as is the case concerning LGBTQ+ people in many countries, officials can be inclined to dismiss any claims of assault or harassment by those groups unfavored by their governments. 

It is important to note that, even in countries where homosexuality is not criminalized, LGBTQ+ people are often not afforded equal rights under the law.

Reasons for cautious optimism

Gradually, many governments have started to rectify their legislation in order for LGBTQ+ people to no longer face some of the previous injustices, and indeed bring about equal rights. As of 2019, there are 24 countries where same-sex marriage has been legalized, a further two in which same-sex marriage is legal in certain regions and 11 where a form of civil partnership is available. 

In this regard, much progress has been made in a relatively short period of time, with countries like Ireland legalizing same-sex marriage after decriminalizing homosexuality only 22 years prior. Cases like these give reason to hope that those countries where LGBTQ+ people still face severe persecution will soon follow suit and end their senseless crusade against peaceful individuals over their gender identity, or who they love.

There are now provisions in some countries for transgender people to have their transition legally recognized. However, this usually comes with a requirement for the individual to have a psychiatric diagnosis or have undergone some form of surgery.

There is now mounting international pressure on those governments which continue to infringe upon the basic rights of LGBTQ+ people. To this effect, in 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution, calling for the ‘Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.’ 

Although this resolution will inevitably not be respected in a number of jurisdictions, it still shows that, on a global level, the tide is increasingly turning against governments that persecute or tolerate abuse towards LGBTQ+ individuals.

Why the rights of LGBTQ+ people are important to SFL

At Students For Liberty, we believe that all individuals have certain inalienable rights, including the right to live peacefully without fear of persecution over immutable characteristics such as sexual orientation and gender identity. Thus, we regard the oppression faced by so many LGBTQ+ people around the world as a terrible tragedy and indeed an area in which urgent progress is required, in order to prevent this unjust suffering from affecting future generations.


Students For Liberty is the largest pro-liberty student organization in the world.

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