Special Report

The Most Difficult Places in the World to Be Gay

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3. Mauritania
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 4,403,320
> GNI per capita, PPP: $4,120
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 53%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $3.56 million

Homosexuality regardless of gender has always been illegal in Mauritania, the 11th-largest country in Africa by area. Female offenders can be sentenced to two years in prison and paying a fine. For men, homosexuality is a capital crime — and the method of execution is stoning. Mauritania has observed a moratorium on stoning since 1987. A Human Rights Watch study in 2018 found that LGBT people deal with “routine violence and discrimination in almost all aspects of their daily lives” in Mauritania, such as police abuse and arbitrary detention.

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2. Sudan
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 41,801,530
> GNI per capita, PPP: $4,420
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 61%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: $42.9 million

Relationships between men are illegal in Sudan (the law is not clear about those between women). The punishment for a third conviction is death or life in prison. Acts that are not sodomy but deemed indecent by authorities are punishable by 40 lashes and possible prison time for up to a year. In Sudan, sexual behavior is linked to the concept of honor, which results in honor killings and hostility towards any public discussion of homosexuality.

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1. Iran
> Maximum anti-gay penalty: Death
> Population: 81,800,270
> GNI per capita, PPP: $21,050
> Literacy rate (% of people 15 and above): 86%
> Amount of US aid in 2020: 0

Homosexulaty was made a crime punishable by death in 1979, after the Islamic revolution. There have been reports over the last six years of gay men who have been hanged in Iran. Health care workers in the country reportedly tell gay and lesbian patients that their same-sex attraction is an indication of a so-called gender identity disorder that must be treated with “reparative” therapies or sex reassignment surgeries. Many of these are performed without consent.

In March 2012, Mehrdad Bazrpash, a former deputy president of the country, said, “It’s a great honor to violate homosexuals rights.”