Arrests, fines and physical punishments of LGBTQ people around the world continue to take place in 2021, a new report has found.

On Tuesday, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA World, released a report that looked at the enforcement of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relations between adults around the world, as well as laws against people with different gender expressions.

ILGA researchers reviewed nearly 1,000 instances — from 72 different countries, over the last two decades — in which people were subjected to the enforcement of legislation that focuses on punishing LGBTQ relations as well as different gender and sexual expressions.

A man accused of having gay sex is publicly caned by a member of the Sharia police in Banda Aceh on Jan. 28, 2021.
A man accused of having gay sex is publicly caned by a member of the Sharia police in Banda Aceh on Jan. 28, 2021. (CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The report, “Our Identities Under Arrest,” seeks to highlight the often under-analyzed aspect of anti-LGBTQ violence: state-sanctioned persecution. It found that in 2021 “at least 29 UN Member States actively enforced criminalizing provisions,” though the actual figure could be much higher, due to considerable underreporting.

At least 44 out of the 72 jurisdictions were reported to have targeted people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression since the start of 2019.

About a third of United Nations member states have laws in their books criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults, though governments often argue that such laws should be seen as “dormant regulations.”

However, “laws never really sleep,” the study’s author, Kellyn Botha, told the Daily News in a statement.

The report “provides plenty of evidence of how criminalizing provisions have targeted our communities worldwide, at times coming back to life after years spent as a mere threatening presence on the book,” she said.

Demonstrators march through the Liberty Bridge during the annual Pride parade on July 24, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary.
Demonstrators march through the Liberty Bridge during the annual Pride parade on July 24, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. (Janos Kummer/Getty Images)

Such laws lead LGBTQ people — or people perceived to be anything other than heterosexual and cisgender — to “live perpetually under threat, excluding them from an equal participation in society,” she added.

Lucas Ramón Mendos, research coordinator at ILGA World, pointed out that it’s more likely for people to be targeted by their appearance or mannerism than for “any verifiable illicit activity” — something that puts trans and gender non-conforming people especially at risk.

“In societies where non-normative behavior is largely read as evidence of non-heterosexuality, the way a person looks, dresses and talks can often be seen as indicative of probable ‘criminal activity,’ and be enough to warrant an arrest”, Mendos said.

Terms of imprisonment can vary greatly across regions. ILGA World compiled examples of people staying in prison anywhere from a couple of months to up to 15 years.

Last year, a judge threw out the case of 47 men who had been arrested in 2018, during a police raid on a hotel in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city. Police said they were being initiated into a gay club, but the men said they were attending a birthday party.

They were facing 10 years behind bars, but a judge threw out the case after police failed to present some of their witnesses.

In February, two transgender women were sentenced to five years behind bars for “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon. They were released in August until a court hears their appeal.
Thai LGBTQ activists hold up a three-fingered salute in front of Democracy Monument during a rally on August 28, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand.
Thai LGBTQ activists hold up a three-fingered salute in front of Democracy Monument during a rally on August 28, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

Corporal punishment — which includes stokes of the cane, or “flogging” — was seen in nearly two dozen cases, and in at least 10 jurisdictions, according to the report.

In January, two men in Indonesia were publicly caned 77 times each for having engaged in consensual sex, after neighbors became suspicious of their relationship and broke into their rented room while they were having sex. The beating marked the third time people were caned in Indonesia’s conservative Aceh province for consensual same-sex relations since the Islamic law was implemented in 2015.

The enforcement of the death penalty is also likely possible, though the report notes that documentation of such instances continues to be challenging. Possible executions were identified in at least two countries — Iran and Saudi Arabia — while other people might have been killed by insurgent groups who’ve taken control of certain areas in at least six other countries: Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, after the Taliban gained control of the Afghan government, a judge in central Afghanistan told the German newspaper Bild that the gay men should be crushed to death by toppling walls onto them.

“Laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual acts or diverse gender expressions, as well as other less explicit provisions, represent a constant threat”, concluded Julia Ehrt, executive director at ILGA World. “This is true not only for our communities on the ground, but also for those seeking asylum after having managed to flee hostile environments. Claims that a law is rarely enforced are simply not enough to make a country safe for those who nevertheless are in danger of persecution there,” she added.

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