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Which Countries Impose the Death Penalty on Gay People?

  •   5 min reads
Which Countries Impose the Death Penalty on Gay People?
By Gerardo Bandera

Around the world, queer people continue to face discrimination, violence, harassment and social stigma. While social movements have marked progress towards acceptance in many countries, in others homosexuality continues to be outlawed and penalised, sometimes with death.

62 countries continue to criminalise homosexuality in their legal codes, several of which also outlaw forms of gender expression.

In many cases, the laws only apply to sexual relations between two men, but 38 countries have amendments that include those between women in their definitions.

These penalisations represent abuses of human rights, especially the rights to freedom of expression, the right to develop one's own personality and the right to life.



The Wahabbi interpretation of Sharia law in Saudi Arabia maintains that acts of homosexuality should be disciplined in the same way as adultery - with death by stoning. Homosexuality or nonconformant gender expression can also be punished by corporal punishment, flogging, imprisonment or forced ‘conversion’ therapy.

In 2019, the Saudi Arabian government orchestrated a mass-execution of 37 men who were accused of espionage or terrorism, five of whom were also convicted of same-sex intercourse after one was tortured into confessing.


Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and carries severe punishment under the country's Islamic penal code. Consensual same-sex sexual activity is considered a crime, and those convicted can face imprisonment, flogging, and even the death penalty. In 2022, for example, two men were convicted of having carried out homosexual relations and were hanged in prison. The death penalty does not apply to same-sex relations between women, but gay women are nevertheless punished with lashings and fines.

The Iranian government has justified its stance on homosexuality by citing religious and cultural reasons, claiming that homosexuality is a sin and goes against Islamic values. As a result, LGBTQ+ individuals in Iran face systemic discrimination, harassment and violence, both from the government and from society at large.


In Yemen, homosexuality is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. Article 264 of the country's penal code criminalises "sodomy" and defines it as sexual intercourse between two men and the law also criminalises any act of "indecency" or "immorality" between individuals of the same sex, including between women.

In addition to imprisonment, those who are found guilty of homosexuality may also face fines, public flogging, or other forms of punishment, such as capital punishment. Between 2012 and 2014, at least 35 people were executed or murdered for their gay identity by the Ansar al Sharia militant group, which is affiliated with al Qaeda. In 2020, a trans woman was detained, tortured and whipped in chastisement of her gender expression before fleeing the country.


The Syariah Penal Code in Brunei permits the administration of the death penalty for acts of sodomy; however, the country has had a moratorium on executions since 1996, and instead punishes homosexuality with whipping and up to 30 years of prison for men and 10 years for women.


Nigeria’s federal penal code imposes a penalty of 14 years of imprisonment for homosexuality. However, in 12 northern states, the regional penal code adopt Sharia law, which penalises homosexual acts with death or flogging. While the death penalty is not commonly used in these states, gay men are often detained, tortured and extorted by authorities, and harassed by community members.


In Mauritania, which follows a Sharia-based criminal code, sexual acts between people of the same sex are criminalised and may be punished with death; however, Mauritanian officials have noted that there is a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, which has not been administered since 1987. Nevertheless, queer people in the country face persecution, imprisonment, and harassment.



Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian Territory (Gaza Strip), Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe


Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan


Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines


Cook Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu


It’s important to note that while the countries listed above have explicit legislations outlawing homosexuality, some other countries that legally permit same-sex relations nevertheless persecute LGBTQ+ people.

This intolerance can take the form of outlawing expressions of LGBTQ+ identities and culture, imposing stigma and discriminating in employment, housing or access to healthcare.


Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but the government has nevertheless implemented several laws that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and activists.

On 5 December, Putin enacted a law that criminalises favourable public depictions or mentions of LGBTQ+ topics, for which violators can receive fines, imprisonment or expulsion from the country.


Same-sex relations were decriminalised in India in 2018, but LGBTQ+ individuals still face significant discrimination and violence, and the country has yet to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination laws to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.


Homosexuality is technically legal in Indonesia, but LGBTQ+ individuals still face significant discrimination and persecution. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, and many people in the country hold conservative views on sexuality and gender.

The government has enacted laws that restrict LGBTQ+ rights and expression, including a 2018 law that criminalises the promotion of "deviant" sexual acts, which has been used to target LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations.


The penalties for homosexuality vary widely among the rest of the countries where it is still criminalised. In some countries, the punishments imposed are less severe, such as fines, while in others they can be violent, including imprisonment, flogging, whipping and forced psychiatric treatment.

At least nine countries allow for punishment by life in prison for same-sex relations: Pakistan, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Gambia and Bangladesh.

In addition to the legal penalties, LGBTQ+ individuals in these countries often face discrimination, harassment and violence from their communities, including their families, neighbours and even law enforcement officials.

For example, LGBTQ+ individuals may be denied access to housing, employment and healthcare, and may be subjected to verbal and physical abuse. They may also be forced to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can lead to social isolation, depression and other mental health issues.

In some cases, LGBTQ+ individuals may be targeted by vigilante groups or mobs, who may beat or kill them with impunity. When they seek help from authorities, they may be further victimised, as police and other officials may ignore their complaints or even arrest them on charges of homosexuality.


The criminalisation of homosexuality also has a suffocating effect on LGBTQ+ activism and advocacy. LGBTQ+ individuals and organisations may be subject to surveillance, harassment and intimidation by authorities, and may face legal penalties for their work.

However, NGOs across the world continue their mission of providing resources to LGBTQ+ people, in some cases helping them flee their homecountries to escape persecution.

  • The Rainbow Railroad: This organisation helps LGBT+ individuals escape state-sponsored or social violence in countries where homosexuality is illegal. They work to identify individuals who are in danger and provide them with support to flee to safer locations. In 2022, they received 10,000 requests for assistance from LGBTQ+ people.
  • OutRight International: This organisation engages in advocacy, research and education to promote change and support the LGBTQ+ community. They work to advance inclusion of marginalised people and to pressure governments to endorse protective laws.
  • ILGA: This organisation empowers other networks of human rights organisations and promotes the protection of LGBTQ+ people through research, empowerment and advocacy work.

First published in Fair Planet. You can read the original article here

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