The rapid shift in the attitude toward LGBTQ rights in the United States has astonished people everywhere. Tolerance and acceptance of LGBTQ people in the U.S. has increased exponentially in recent years. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 32 states, all of which has occurred within the past decade.
The tide is turning in the culture wars surrounding gay rights. A majority of Americans now accept same-sex marriage as a social norm, rather than the taboo it was considered to be just decades ago. Support for LGBTQ rights has spread beyond the members of its community as well. Many “straight allies” also advocate the cause, enabling the movement to reach broader audiences in the country.
Despite being the minority, opposition of LGBTQ rights persists in the United States. A number of conservative religious and political groups continue to uphold the ideal of a traditional marriage between a man and a woman. However, these beliefs have lost their grip on public opinion and tend to be overpowered by pro-LGBTQ voices.
BY MIYAKO IWATA
Central America is well-known for pioneering legal rights for the LGBTQ community. Latin American countries were some of the earliest adopters in legalizing same-sex sexual activity, which is now legal for LGBTQ people in all Central American countries, except for males in Belize. In some places, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, homosexual activity has been lawful since the 1800s. Gay marriage and adoption were also legalized in many Latin American countries between 2009 and 2010, years before such advancements were made in the U.S. other countries around the world.
However, popular attitudes lag behind the legal framework. In fact, Central America is home to some of the worst cases of discrimination against LGBTQ people in the world. Due to the influence of the anti-LGBTQ Catholic and Protestant Churches, most Central Americans have little tolerance for members of the LGBTQ community. People who identify as LGBTQ often do so secretly or marry a partner of the opposite sex in an effort to protect themselves from violence and oppression. In this way, homophobia continues to pose a huge threat to the welfare of LGBTQ people in Latin America.
BY MIYAKO IWATA
On May 14 2013, the National Council of Brazil legalized same-sex with a final vote of 14-1. The ruling stated that all civil registers of Brazil could perform same-sex marriages and convert preexisting same-sex civil unions into marriages. In December of that same year, Rio de Janeiro’s Superior Court of Justice held a mass marriage ceremony of same-sex couples, which were the first same-sex civil marriages of the city. A total of 130 couples were married that day.
Although LGBTQ people in Brazil enjoy the same legal protections as non-LGBTQ people, there are still many cases of discrimination. Hundreds of hate crimes occur every year against LGBTQ people. Brazil has one of the highest rates of murders against LGBTQ people. However, Brazilians have held over one hundred events this past year with the purpose of fighting homophobia and transphobia because of Brazil’s high rate of violence. On May 5 of this year, Brazil hosted the largest ever gay rights parade in the city of Sao Paulo. The marchers’ goal was to push the government to make laws banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in Brazil. Brazilian LGBTQ activists hope that criminalizing acts of prejudice will help to reduce discrimination.
BY SARA TSAI
For many years now, Sweden has been regarded as one of the most progressive countries for LGBT rights in Europe and in the world. Sweden has been years ahead of most democratic countries, including the U.S. In 1944 same-sex sexual activity was legalized in Sweden, making them one of the first countries to do so. The age of consent was equalized in 1972; in that year Sweden became the first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex. In 1979, the National Board of Health and Wealth-fare decided homosexuality was no longer a mental illness, and in 2008 transsexuality was declassified as a mental illness.
Some of the more recent laws include adoption rights for same-sex couples, which was passed in 2003, and insemination rights for lesbian couples in 2005. Sweden became the seventh country to legalize same sex marriage nationwide in 2009, with 261 members of Parliament voting yes and only 22 voting no.
Sweden has also done a good job to make sure all members of the LGBT community are treated equally, not only under law, but also in everyday life. In 1987 a ban on discrimination on homosexuals by businesses and government officials took effect. Also, the Swedish Armed Forces actively work on creating an environment where LGBT persons do not feel the need to hide their orientation.
Overall Sweden has been recognized as Europe’s most LGBT friendly country, with 71 percent of Swedes supporting same-sex marriage. While there are still improvements that can be made, Sweden is a strong example for the rest of the world to follow.
BY AIDAN JOHNSON
Uganda has one of the worst human rights records for LGBTQ people in the world. Earlier in the year, the country tried to pass a law with a death penalty for homosexual acts, which passed and was only struck down this year after a narrow vote in the court system. Currently in Uganda, LGBTQ individuals can be sent to prison for their sexual orientations or gender identities. The anti-LGBTQ movement began in Uganda in 2009 when a group of evangelical Christians from America went to Uganda for an anti-homosexuality conference and began to preach to lawmakers and Ugandan ministers about gay and lesbian people. The movement has grown in Uganda for the years following. Currently, openly LGBTQ people in Uganda live in an atmosphere of persecution, violence, and discrimination with no protection from the law whatsoever guaranteeing their safety or economic stability. As a result, many openly LGBTQ people from Uganda apply for asylum to go to Western countries where attitudes toward LGBTQ people are more lenient.
BY DAISY BURGE
Although Russia legalized homosexuality more than 20 years ago, views toward the gay community remain extremely conservative. Members of the LGBTQ community are routinely mocked, humiliated, and beaten. Despite these obvious violations of basic human rights, the Russian police forces refuse to condemn the perpetrators of this violence.
Early this year, the Kremlin passed a law criminalizing the spread of homosexual “propaganda,” including pickets, speeches, and even public displays of affection, such as holding hands. The law was passed with the intent of protecting children, as it is a commonly held belief in Russia that pedophilia and homosexuality go hand in hand.
Groups of so-called “vigilantes” exist, constantly on the lookout for LGBTQ community members to harass. One such group, called Occupy Pedophilia, is a collection of volunteers spanning over 30 Russian cities that lures targets to secluded locations. The victims are trapped, beaten, humiliated, and sometimes sexually assaulted. Of those targeted, only six percent have admitted to contacting the police, as the police rarely follow through on those cases.
If a Russian comes out as queer, they risk being fired, harassed, assaulted, or even murdered. This severely homophobic environment forces millions of Russians to hide their identities.
BY DANIELLE SULITEANU
LGBTQ rights in India are taking two steps forward then one step back. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes homosexual acts, but was overturned in 2009 by the New Delhi High Court on the basis that it was unconstitutional. However, in 2013, the Indian Supreme Court overturned this ruling on the basis that these issues should be left to Parliament. However, transgender rights have recently made huge leaps forward. In April 2014, the Indian Supreme Court declared transgender an official gender and social class entitled to unions and welfare. The courts have also ruled that the government must address the discrimination faced by transgender people. For example, the government now allocates quotas for transgender individuals in public jobs. In addition, the Indian Supreme Court has agreed to hear petitions on Section 377 again. LGBTQ people, despite all this progress, still face harsh discrimination in a nation where the topic remains taboo. For example, a man was recently arrested for homosexuality on Oct. 29 of this year. Furthermore, in the most recent election, 490,000 people identified as transgender on their ballots. While this is a promising step in a new direction, transgender activists estimate that the actual number is around seven times greater.
BY MELISSA WANG
With the Chinese government’s “don’t support, don’t ban, don’t promote” motto, the LGBTQ rights movement is very young and slow moving in China. The Chinese government has strong control over many major aspects of the society, including what LGBTQ-oriented events they will tolerate and take notice of.
In May of 2013, 19-year-old Xiang Xiaohan (a pseudonym) led an unregistered 100-person march through Changsha, Hunan. He was detained for 12 days. The participants of the march called for an end of homophobia and discrimination on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
However, the Shanghai Pride event, which promotes social rights and acceptance for LGBTQ members in a society that is still dominated by a traditional view on gender and sexuality, recently took place this past June. No one was arrested or harmed during Shanghai Pride. This could be the first of many steps toward social equality in China.
BY NOAH PRUETT
Despite the rapidly growing LGBTQ rights movement in Australia, the national government maintains a conservative position on gay rights. Last year, the federal government overturned a law that legalized same-sex marriage in the Australian Capital Territory. However, activists such as Rodney Croome, named the 2015 Tasmanian Australian of the Year for his contributions to the LGBTQ community, are astounded by the progress made in the past 20 years: they have promoted awareness about gay rights and achieved the elimination of discriminatory laws toward LGBTQ individuals (such as the right to fire workers solely based on their sexualities). The LGBTQ community has achieved support from several political figures, including Bill Shorten, Australia’s Federal Opposition Leader, who spoke at a Christian conference condemning homophobia.
Hillsong, a globally influential Australian church, has also begun rethinking its position on same-sex marriages. “We feel at this point,” Pastor Brian Houston said, “that it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people’s lives are too important for us just to reduce it down to a yes or no answer in a media outlet.”
Although many Australians believe that progress remains frustratingly slow, it is exciting that Australia is willing to have this conversation.
BY RAINA KAMRAT