The BBC has been quick to comment on the compromising question put to the Moroccan women’s football team captain, Ghizlan Chebbak, by one of their journalists questioning as to whether there were any gay players in her squad. However, the BBC’s comment fell short of an actual apology.
Morocco criminalises gay relationships and clearly the question had the potential to jeopardise any gay players, making it impossible for the captain to answer. Individuals found guilty of homosexuality in Morocco are subject to a prison sentence of up to three years, together with a fine.
There are 64 countries worldwide that criminalise same-sex relationships with varying degrees of punishments. Nearly half of the countries that outlaw gay relationships are in Africa but recently some African countries have moved to reverse such laws, whilst others have tightened up their laws.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Brunei, Nigeria and Mauritania apply capital punishment to those found guilty of homosexuality using various methods, including death by stoning and hanging, whilst invoking Sharia law. Pakistan, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Gambia and Bangladesh sentence same-sex relationships to life in prison. Countries that criminalise gay people nearly always have the additional option for flogging and/or fining “offenders.”
Fortunately, there are several countries that have chosen to reverse the laws that criminalise gay people including Singapore, Antigua, Barbados, Saint Kitts, Nevis and Barbuda with Angola’s president law criminalising same-sex acts between consenting adults to be unconstitutional. Gabon, Mozambique, Botswana and the Seychelles have all abandoned their anti-homosexual laws.
Also, other highly controversial issues have been reviewed such as the pernicious conversion therapy. Several countries have either banned or regulated this practice, including Canada, France, Greece, Israel, Vietnam and New Zealand.
There are several countries that, whilst they have repealed the laws criminalising gay relationships and no longer have explicit laws against same-sex relationships but harassment is commonplace and same-sex acts and expressions are often prosecuted under the other laws that are in place such as laws aimed at indecency.
There are some countries that have rejected efforts to decriminalise same-sex acts, such as, Kenya that prohibited a challenge to its law criminalising homosexual acts in 2019, brought by three Kenyan associations that work to promote the rights of LGBT individuals. The organisations said that articles 162 and 165 that criminalised same-sex conduct, breached the rights to equality non-discrimination, human dignity security, privacy and health all of which are enshrined and protected under Kenya’s constitution. However, slightly encouragingly Kenya’s high court ruled that, whilst gay sex still remains illegal, that authorities should not prevent the gay community from registering a gay rights organisation, which appears to be a contradiction in terms.
LGBT individuals must be mindful of such attitudes when travelling or working abroad, it is easy to overlook the risks. As is demonstrated above the law across the globe varies quite considerably. Of the 53 countries of the British Commonwealth – most of them former British colonies – 29 have laws that criminalise homosexuality. In many cases the legacy laws that existed in the former colonial times have taken on a new lease of life. In some countries these laws are supported with the same level of enthusiasm and vindictiveness as when they were first enacted.
Gay couples that find themselves facing the threat of criminal charges whilst abroad will need the assistance of international criminal defence lawyers. Our lawyers can assist in every way, for further information on Gay Lawyers services to the LGBT community please contact us.
Anne Gadd, Head of Marketing and