Special Report

The Most Difficult Places in the World to Be Gay

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8. Saudi Arabia
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 33,699,947
> GNI per capita, PPP: $55,840
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 95%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $18,505

Relations between people of the same sex — whether men or women — can be tried as capital crimes in Saudi Arabia. The punishment can also be flogging, but that depends on the perceived seriousness of the wrongdoing. The sentence for first-time offenders is often lashing or some prison time, while those caught more than once can be executed.

There are no LGBT groups or organizations operating in Saudi Arabia, and opportunities for people to meet are limited. Gay people are also persecuted for their identities. In January 2018, Saudi police arrested a group of men who had uploaded a video of a “gay wedding.”

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7. Afghanistan
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 37,172,386
> GNI per capita, PPP: $1,970
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 43%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $391.1 million

Same-sex relationships are not recognized in Afghanistan, one of several United Nations membr states where the possible punishment for same-sex conduct is death. Gay men and women live in fear. The subject of homosexuality is a taboo. It’s almost never talked about and it is perceived as immoral, un-Islamic, and even as a disease.

Honor killings, where relatives kill the gay man or woman to restore the family’s honor, are not unheard of. These laws are more likely to be enforced in Taliban-controlled, rural, and/or isolated communities. A BBC report said one influential Islamic scholar has said that “there was broad consensus amongst scholars that execution was the appropriate punishment if homosexual acts could be proven.”

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6. Nigeria
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 195,874,740
> GNI per capita, PPP: $5,710
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 62%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $178.2 million

In 2014, Nigeria’s then President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same Sex Marriage [Prohibition] Act. Besides banning gay marriage, the act also forbids the registration of gay clubs, societies, and other organizations supporting the LGBT community. Public displays of affection between gay people are also prohibited. Those of any gender found guilty of homosexuality in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, can be put in prison for up to 14 years. While this law is applied across the entire country, 12 northern states have their own laws, punishing gay men and women with death by stoning.

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5. Pakistan
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 212,215,030
> GNI per capita, PPP: $5,860
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 59%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $71.9 million

LGBT issues in Pakistan are a forbidden topic, and homosexual acts are illegal. The country’s penal code does not explicitly state homosexual acts but states that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. The death penalty is technically permitted by the law, but not applied.

Gay people in Pakistan report facing hostility in Pakistani society if they reveal their sexual orientation. Individuals sometimes face pressure and violence from family members to conform to heteronormative expectations of marriage. In September 2013, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority blocked a site created to help Pakistan’s gay and transgender community to socialize. A spokesperson for the authority said the site was shut down because “its content was against Islam and norms of Pakistani society.”

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4. Brunei Darussalam
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 428,960
> GNI per capita, PPP: $82,180
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 97%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: 0

The Brunei Islamic Religious Council in 2018 approved the Criminal Procedures Code on Syariah, which would impose the death penalty on male same-sex sexual acts. The standard of proof under the Sharia law requires four male witnesses that were present when the acts in question took place before there is a conviction. The enactment of the laws in the Asian nation was met by international outrage. After several weeks of condemnation by world leaders, the sultanate announced it wouldn’t enforce the death penalty for people engaging in homosexual acts.