The former British Honduras is one of several Commonwealth members that has not repealed anti-gay legislation from the days when it was a British colony. Section 53 of Belize's Criminal Code mandates up to 10 years in jail for anyone convicted of "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal." Openly gay tourists are banned from entering the country, which is a leading central American holiday destination. Although prosecutions are rare, the existing legal status has kept the LGBT community living in fear. But now Section 53 faces a court challenge. The International Commission of Jurists and the London-based Human Dignity Trust, which campaigns to decriminalise homosexuality around the world, is backing the suit with the support of former British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.
Dubbed "the most homophobic place on earth" in a Time magazine survey in 2006, matters have not improved in the intervening period. Violence against gay men is endemic and there have been reports of allegedly gay women being raped by men to "cure" them. Last month, 16-year-old Dwayne Jones was killed after being seen dancing with a man while wearing female clothing. The Jamaican government claims "there is no legal discrimination against persons on the grounds of their sexual orientation". One reason for the homophobia could lie in macho attitudes espoused by males and popularised in popular songs. The high rates of HIV/Aids in the male community is also cited as a reason.
Last weekend, Uganda's LGBT community held a "gay pride" march in a remote country area to object to the introduction of new legislation which could involve the death penalty for those alleged to be in a homosexual relationship. In a deeply conservative country - 95% of the population believe same-sex relationships are wrong - it was a bold gesture and due to a police presence, it passed off peacefully.
"Uganda is not yet mature enough for us to walk freely in the streets," says Kasha Jacqueline, who brought Pride to Uganda for the first time last year. "But I hope it will be possible during the next five years for us to parade in Kampala." "Outings" by the media are a common occurrence and in October 2010, the tabloid newspaper Rolling Stone published the names, addresses, photographs, and meeting places of 100 allegedly gay and lesbian Ugandans, accompanied by a call for their execution.
In Pakistan's ultra-conservative society, gay relationships in public are virtually non-existent. Same-sex acts are illegal under the Penal Code enacted in 1860 during the days of the British Raj. In the intervening period, the relevant chapters have been strengthened. Same-sex partnerships are illegal and there is little protection for the LGBT community which suffers discrimination. Amnesty International says there is also widespread police harassment of suspected gays, which leads to bullying or blackmail. The growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism has also led to attacks on the LGBT community.
There is acceptance of the transgender hirja community, whose members won agreement for equality under legislation passed by the Supreme Court in 2009.
As one of the wealthiest African countries, Nigeria is in a good position to be a role model, but it also has one of the continent's most conservative societies. Both the Muslim north and the Christian south are intolerant of homosexual relationships and the punishments are severe: at worst corporal punishment or death by stoning in the north, and prison sentences of up to 14 years in the south. A Same-Sex (Prohibition) Bill is being considered by President Goodluck Johnson and, if passed, it will not only lead to punishment for the partners in any long-term partnership or marriage, but will make the relationship null and void. One reason for the intolerance has been the prevalence of HIV/Aids. Latest figures show 17.2% suffering from the condition are men compared to 4.1% among the wider population. Nigeria has one of the worst human rights records in Africa.
In common with other West African states, Sierra Leone has a troubled recent past. In 2002, it emerged from a decade of a civil war that was brought to an end by 1700 peacekeeping troops deployed by the United Nations and Britain. In the aftermath the rebels were disarmed and the country has made great strides, but social problems and poverty remain. A lasting feature of the conflict was the atrocities committed against the civilian population by the rebels, who were little more than gangsters. Their trademark was to hack off the hands or feet of their victims. Against that memory of extreme violence, human rights have suffered and male same-sex relationships are illegal. However, female same-sex relationships are permitted. The legislation was enacted under Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 during the period of British rule. According to a recent report submitted by the US ambassador to the US State Department: "Many Sierra Leoneans believe that homosexuality is practiced exclusively by, or through inducements from, foreigners - it is assumed that homosexuals are either copying Western practices, or motivated by economics."
The first British African colony to achieve independence, the former Gold Coast has banned same-sex sexual activity under Chapter Six of the country's criminal code as amended by the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act of 2003. Police violence against the LGBT community is a regular fact of life. In July 2011, Paul Evans Aidoo, the Minister for the Western Region, ordered all gay people in his area to be arrested and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspected of being gay. In common with most sub-Saharan African countries, Ghana not only bans gays but expresses its indignation whenever Western countries attempt to persuade it to liberalist its attitudes. At the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government meting, the then president John Atta Mills responded to Britain's threat to withdraw aid by saying that Prime Minister David Cameron "does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do, especially where their societal norms and ideals are different".
TANZANIA has one of the most conservative attitudes towards homosexuality in eastern and central Africa. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, 95% of Tanzanian citizens believe society should not accept homosexuality and that same-sex relationships should be punished. Under the terms of the country's penal code, imprisonment and heavy fines should apply to those involved in same-sex relationships or found to be guilty of committing acts of "gross indecency" or "against the order of nature". Attempts to legalise same-sex relationships or marriages have been turned down by the government on the grounds they are "not yet acceptable". The growing strength of Islamic fundamentalism has also been a factor in the introduction of stricter penalties for males discovered engaging in homosexual sexual acts.
The Solomon Islands achieved independence in 1978 and are one of the Commonwealth's smallest member states. They possess a strict legal code which makes same-sex sexuality activity illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Whipping is also available as a sanction for persistent offenders. The main target of the legislation is the crime of sodomy or attempted sodomy which are both described as "abominable" and are widely condemned across all levels of society. Attempts to reform the legal code have been stymied by inconclusive elections, weak coalitions and votes of no confidence. A move this year aimed at liberalising the law for the LGBT community met opposition. A US State Department report on the country claims that while human rights abuses are low, there is growing problem with rape and violence against women, many of them under-age.
PEOPLE suspected of engaging in same-sex activities are detained and some have been sentenced to prison. Those defending the rights of the LGBT community have been subjected to harassment and abuse. Last year, Franky Ndome Ndome and Jonas Nsinga Kimie - both serving a prison sentence for homosexual conduct - were repeatedly assaulted by fellow inmates. The authorities took no action against those responsible or to protect them from violence.