Tower Bridge with Olympic Logo, by Siddie Nam,  http://www.flickr.com/photos/siddienam/

State-sponsored homophobia in Olympic nations (part 2)

It’s wonderful that 205 nations have been brought in competition together by sport, not war.  During the London 2012 opening ceremony we saw a record number of female flag-bearers.  Diversity reigns in the Olympic games!  But sport isn’t the only thing bringing these 205 countries together.

In the first part of this 5 part series about gay rights in Olympic nations we looked at Africa.  Frankly there was only one medal-worthy performance on that continent.  In this installment we turn our attention to Asia.

Asian laws about homosexuality have been evolving.  In 2009, Indian laws were found to be unconstitutional, however cultural attitudes remain ardently anti-gay.  The Nepalese monarchy fell in 2007 and in the aftermath the Supreme Court ruled that the newly democratic Government must make laws to protect LBGT individuals.  They have not.  In 2008 the same court ruled that the Government must introduce laws for same-sex marriage.  They have not.

Compare this with Malaysia, where the government has banned any LGBT person from appearing in the media.  In 2001, the Prime Minister promised to deport any foreign diplomat or visiting cabinet minister who is gay.  The Malaysian film censorship board will refuse classification to any film that depicts homosexuals, unless those homosexuals “repent” or die.

Kazakhstan’s attitude towards gays can be summed up by their actions: they cosponsored opposition to the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.  The Philippines joined Kazak opposition and refused to sign the UN Declaration, which asked states not to execute people for being gay.  The Maldives (who want to be a premium tourist destination) also opposed this declaration.

All laws in Pakistan must be “compatible with Islam”.  The committee that decides this has often referred to homosexuality as a “western disease”.  Pakistan routinely tries to block UN declarations on LBGT issues.  In Qatar the 2003 constitution establishes Sharia law as paramount.  Indonesia has subjugated all human-rights laws to Islamic law – meaning gay organisers are usually arrested, tried and imprisoned for heresy.  There are also allegations of torture.

In North Korea the law doesn’t address homosexuality, but the regime portrays it as Western moral degeneracy. And, if we’re honest, North Korea hasn’t yet developed a reputation for protecting human rights.  In Myanmar, another authoritarian regime, the penalty is 10 years to life in prison.  Syrian Law-enforcement has a “zero tolerance” policy to homosexuality.  The Syrian secret service blackmail homosexuals and then after the “honour killings” of homosexuals, insist that there be no investigation.

We know things are bad in Iran, where public executions and whippings are common.  In 2007, a 13 year-old boy was convicted and executed by hanging for sodomy, even though the witnesses and accusers all recanted their statements.  His family was not told about his execution until after his body was destroyed.  In 2008 two men (aged 18 and 19) confessed to being in love and were charged with ‘waging a war against God’, their fate is unknown.

But it isn’t just Islamic nations and totalitarian regimes that are intolerant of homosexuality, Singapore’s Government has funded ex-gay programs.

 

This is heavy going, so let’s look at other Western “allies”…

 

In Afghanistan, the fall of the Taliban was seen as a turning point against radical Islam.  But matters have not improved: the death penalty is still applied to homosexuals under Sharia law, usually by stoning.   Cross-dressing is also a serious crime, likely to get you murdered by the local villagers.  Bahrain, other the other hand, has made homosexuality technically legal, however homosexuality and cross-dressing are considered “immoral acts” that attract significant fines and jail time.

Even though being gay is legal in Jordan, “honour killings” (what civilised people call “murders”) are routine.  In Iraq vigilantes execute gay people under Sharia law, while the state turns a blind eye to these extra-judicial killings.  The penalty for homosexuality is officially death in the United Arab Emirates, but foreigners are usually deported after about a year in prison and forced chemical castration.  Prison terms of about 5 years seem to be normal punishment in Abu Dhabi, in Dubai 10 years seems normal.

Aside from death by public (and usually televised) beheading for homosexuals, Saudi Arabia’s censorship policies require that any discussion of homosexuality describe it as a “western disease”.  If you have a strong stomach you can find footage of these beheadings on YouTube.  It is so disturbing that I will not be including a link here.  The theme of censorship also exists in Kuwait, where the law forbids printing any publication that will “harm public morals” or the “sanctity of religions”.  The official position of Yemen is that there are no gays in Yemen, which stands to reason since they execute them as soon as they find them.

 

We obviously can’t end this article on such a downer, so here the good news:

 

Though Bhutan has a 1-year prison term for homosexuals, there is no known case of someone being charged for homosexuality.  Gays are often referred to as a ‘third gender’ in HIV prevention programs.  We found a similar situation in Sri Lanka: homosexuality is banned under “gross indecency” laws, but we cannot find examples of prosecutions.

Gay tolerance in Cambodia is improving – the first LBGT pride festival started in 2003 and has become an annual event.   Japanese culture is relatively tolerant of homosexuality, however bi-national same-sex couples are not issued visas for the foreign partner.  Aside from this, discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is thankfully rare in Japan.

As we all know, there is only one China, but within China there are many systems of government.  Broadly speaking the Chinese saw homosexuality as a ‘fact of life’ until the 19th century, when they started to enact laws to stop Westernism.  Hong Kong decriminalised homosexuality in 1991.  The PRC rolled back policies in 1997.  Taipei (Chinese Taipei, usually called Taiwan) has reached a silver medal performance – for hosting the biggest LBGT pride event in Asia.

Thailand also gets a silver medal – it is one of the most tolerant cultures in Asia, however there is still some work to do around non-discrimination.  In a stunning turn of events, Vietnam’s communist government is considering legalising same-sex marriage. Of course this hasn’t happened yet, but we’re waiting breathlessly for the result.

In part 3 we will turn our attention to gay rights in Oceania.

In the Olympics big countries have an advantage over smaller countries – more population means more chances for genetic abnormalities that lead to uber-sportsmen.  One of our supporters has normalised Olympic results by population – so that we can work out who is really winning the games – it makes for interesting reading.

In the meantime, here is a table summarising Asia’s attitude to gays:

Asia
Country Legal? Protection? Marriage? Comments
Afghanistan Death No No The fall of the Taliban has not improved matters.  The death penalty is still applied under Sharia law, sually by stoning. Cross-dressing is also a serious crime, likely to get you murdered by the local villagers
Bahrain Technical legal but attracts fines and jail-time No No While technically legal, homosexuality and cross-dressing are considered immoral acts that attract significant fines and jail time
Bangladesh Deportation or up to 10 years in prison No No There is recognition of a third-gender, the hijra (Intersex)– however they are generally abused, mistreated and have their human-rights denied.  Most hijra are forced into lives of prostitution to make a living.
Bhutan 1 year in prison No No There is no known example of someone being charged for homosexuality.  Gays are often referred to as a ‘third gender’ in HIV prevention programs.
Brunei Daruss 10 years in prison No No
Cambodia Legal No No Gay tolerance in Cambodia is improving – the first LBGT pride festival started in 2003 and has become an annual event.
China (People’s Republic of) Legal No No In China homosexuality was a ‘fact of life’ until the 19th century.  In PRC, decriminalisation in 1997.
DPR Korea Illegal (not specifically, usually sentenced via sedition laws) No No The law doesn’t address homosexuality, but the DPRK regime portrays it as Western moral degeneracy.
Hong Kong, China Legal Some – Hong Kong bans government discrimination within the territory No Hong Kong decriminalised homosexuality in 1991
India Legal No No Laws against homosexuality were found to be unconstitutional in 2009.  Cultural attitudes remain ardently anti-gay.
Indonesia Nominally legal No No Transgendered individuals may change their legal sex after a lengthy process. Muslims in Aceh province will be sentenced in line with Sharia law.  Jakarta labels lesbians, gays bisexuals, transgendered and transsexual people mentally handicapped and remove legal protections enjoyed by other citizens.  All human-rights laws are all subjugated to Islamic law – meaning gay organisers are usually arrested, tried and imprisoned for heresy.
Iran Death penalty for men, lashings and torture for women. No No Public executions and whippings are common.  In 2007 a 13 year old boy was convicted and executed by hanging for sodomy, even though the witnesses and accusers all recanted their statements.  His family was not told about his execution until after his body was destroyed.  In 2008 two men (aged 18 and 19) confessed to being in love and were charged with ‘waging a war against God’, their fate is unknown.
Iraq Decriminalised,but deadly No No Vigilantes are routinely executing gay people under Sharia law.  While the state turns a blind eye to these extra-judicial killings.
Japan Legal No No – there is a limited form of domestic partnership Discrimination on the grounds of homosexuality is rare in Japan.  Japanese culture is relatively tolerant of homosexuality, however bi-national same-sex couples are not issued visas for the foreign partner
Jordan Legal No No Once again, even though homosexuality is legal in Jordan, “honour killings” (what civilised people call “murders”) do occur.
Kazakhstan Legal No No Kazakhstan’s attitude towards gay can be summed up by their actions: they cosponsored opposition to the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Korea Legal Some No Even though Korean human rights law forbids discrimination on the grounds of sexuality; the Military Penal Code sentences consensual relations between adults to one year in Military prison.  This is a problem because all male citizens are conscripted into the military
Kuwait 10 years in prison No No Not content to ban homosexual acts, Kuwaiti law forbids printing any publication that will “harm public morals” or the “sanctity of religions”
Kyrgyzstan Legal No No Legalised in 1998
Lao PDR Legal No No Good data is hard to come by: the Lao government bans any study of human rights not conducted by the government.  It seems, however, that gay men are far more likely to be tolerated than lesbians.
Lebanon 1 year in prison No No
Malaysia 20 years in prison, fines and whippings No No The Malaysian government has banned any LGBT person from appearing in the media.  In 2001, the Prime Minister promised to deport any foreign diplomat or visiting cabinet minister who is gay.  The Malaysian film censorship board will refuse classification to any film that depicts homosexuals, unless those homosexuals “repent” or die.
Maldives Illegal under Sharia law No No The Maldives co-signed the statement against the UN Declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Mongolia Legal No No Decriminalised in 2002, however overt expression of transgenderism is viewed negatively
Myanmar 10 years to life in Prison No No As an authoritarian regime, reliable information on prevailing attitudes is hard to collate.
Nepal Legal No No In 2007 the Nepalese monarchy fell, in the aftermath the Supreme Court ruled that the newly democratic Government must make laws to protect LBGT individuals.  They have not.  In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that the Government must introduce laws for same-sex marriage.  They have not.
Oman 3 years in Prison No No
Pakistan Illegal under Sharia law No No All laws in Pakistan must be “compatible with Islam”, the committee that decides this has often referred to homosexuality as a “western disease”.  Pakistan routinely tries to block UN declarations on LBGT issues.
Palestine Male illegal in Gaza No No
Philippines Technically legal No No The Philippines did not sign the UN Declaration on human sexuality and gender expression
Qatar 5 years in prison No No The 2003 constitution establishes Sharia law as paramount.
Saudi Arabia Death by Public beheading No No Censorship policies require that any discussion of homosexuality describe it as a “western disease”
Singapore Illegal between men (2 years in prison) No No Government has funded ex-gay programs.
Sri Lanka Illegal No No While technically illegal under Sri Lanka’s “gross indecency” laws, we cannot find examples of prosecutions.
Syria 3 years in prison No No Law-enforcement has a “zero tolerance” policy to homosexuality.  The Syrian secret service use this to blackmail homosexuals into doing their bidding.   Honour killings of LGBT people are not investigated.
Taipei (Chinese Taipei – commonly known as Taiwan) Legal Yes No Silver medal performance – hosts the biggest LBGT pride event in Asia.
Tajikistan Legal No No
Thailand Legal No No Silver medal – one of the most tolerant cultures in Asia, however Thailand still has some work to do around non-discrimination.
Timor-Leste Legal No No
Turkmenistan Male – 2 years prison, female –  legal No No
UA Emirates Death penalty under Sharia Law. No No While the penalty is death under the law, foreigners are usually deported after about a year in prison and forced to undergo chemical castration.  Prison terms of about 5 years seem to be normal punishment in Abu Dhabi, in Dubai 10 years seems normal.
Uzbekistan Male – 3 years in prison, female – legal No No
Vietnam Legal No No In a stunning turn of events, Vietnam’s communist government is considering legalising same-sex marriage. Of course this hasn’t happened yet, but we’re waiting breathlessly for the result.
Yemen Death penalty No No The official position of Yemen is that there is no gays in Yemen.  Which stands to reason since they execute them as soon as they find them.
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