Criminalization of Love

Criminalization of Love 

- Dikshya Koirala

On 21st March 2023, Uganda’s parliament passed a law that criminalizes homosexual activities. The internet was outraged and there was widespread condemnation from human rights activists and organizations across the world. The United Nations termed the bill “The worst of its kind and even asked the parliament to reconsider. 

This law in question imposes outrageous penalties ranging from life imprisonment for gay sex and death for cases of “aggravated” homosexuality. Queer people around the world shared how the law made them feel unsafe in their own homes and expressed sympathy for LGBTIQA+ communities living in Uganda. 

The law was introduced to protect “Cultural sentiments” and to stop “Westernization” in Uganda. The lawmakers stated that Western countries are brainwashing people to follow their own cultural agendas. What they fail to see is that it is in clear violation of people’s right to freedom of expression, association, and sexual orientation.  

Sadly, Uganda is not only the country that has imposed severe anti-gay bills. Laws that criminalize homosexuality are present in almost one-third of countries worldwide. This means that being Queer is illegal in 64 UN member States, with legal sanctions against same-sex conduct varying in scope and application. 

In some countries, only specific sexual acts are punished, while in others the laws are more general, often vague, and open interpretations. This “Gray Area” in the law acts as a loophole against gay people and is used by prosecutors to depict their hatred against queer individuals. The consequences can be severe, ranging from fines to life imprisonment and even the death penalty. 

In several countries around the world, including Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, simply being gay is punishable by death. Even in five other countries, there is no legal certainty, and the death penalty stays a possibility. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates are among the countries that have a "Gray Area" in their laws, which is alarming and goes against fundamental human rights, including the right to life, liberty, and equality. 

Law enforcement agencies in some countries aggressively pursue and prosecute individuals suspected of being a transgender and gay person. This modern form of a “Witch Hunt occurs in many parts of the world, with many cases unheard of because law enforcement actively hides them from the public. 

In addition to criminalizing homosexuality, some countries also have laws that explicitly forbid the expression of transgender identities. For instance: Brunei, Oman, and Kuwait have national laws that criminalize “posing as” or “imitating” a person of a different sex.  

Police in Saudi Arabia are renowned for routinely arresting people based on their gender expression, even though there is no codified law in their country. Malaysia criminalizes “posing” as a “different sex” under Sharia law, despite its absence in federal law. Nigeria also criminalizes transgender and gender non-conforming people in its northern states under Sharia.  

In other countries, the laws may not be enforced, but they still have severe consequences for LGBTQ+ people, including discrimination and limited access to employment, health services, and police protection. 

Let’s not forget that even in countries where being Queer is legal, the fear of persecution is still present. Discrimination is alive and well, and we must do our part in creating a safe and inclusive world for everyone. It is time to stand up for what is right and fight for a future where everyone can live freely and authentically, without fear of persecution or discrimination.