Whilst homosexuality was legalised in Russia over 20 years ago, there has been an increase in homophobic violence and hate crimes in recent years. The sad truth is that being gay in Russia means that you can be hunted down and brutalised for fun by vigilante gangs. These homophobic vigilante groups often disrupt LGBT events and festivals, in an attempt to intimidate and marginalise the LGBT community. Shockingly, the Russian parliament recently passed a loosely worded propaganda law that bans all positive and neutral references to so called ‘non-traditional relationships’ that anyone under 18 might see. However, work is being done to combat the situation and there are progressive groups in Russia such as Direct Action who hold demonstrations to demand investigation into these hate crimes.
The USA – San Francisco
Although generally progressive, legislation and rights in the USA vary between the States. San Francisco has one of the world’s largest LGBT communities. In the 1970s, the city became a centre of the gay rights movement, with the emergence of The Castro as an urban gay village. Today, in The Castro, the gay and lesbian community is over a quarter of a million strong. San Francisco also has one of the biggest gay pride parades and last year’s event saw over 100,000 people attend with 220 acts. This year’s event is taking place on the 28th of June with the opportunity to cheer the ‘Dykes on Bikes’, ‘Bears in Straps’ and ‘Trannies in Gowns’ groups, along with other groups from the LGBT community.
While same-sex relationships are legal in Iraq, the majority of the population view such relationships as unacceptable. It has been reported that non-uniformed police in Iraq abuse their power and status to beat and torture homosexuals, and the LGBT community often suffer ill-treatment and discrimination in everyday life. Moreover, the two main victims of so-called ‘honour killings’ in Iraq are women who have disrespected the wishes of their families and LGBT people. Even more shocking is that the death penalty is enforced for entering into homosexual acts. It is difficult to comprehend that nothing is being done in Iraq to combat this appalling situation, but LGBT people are often forced to seek asylum in other countries to escape such hate crimes.
In general, Australia is extremely accepting of the LGBT community and Sydney is the gay capital of the southern hemisphere with a vibrant gay scene and nightlife. In 2009, the Australian Government actively set reforms in place in an attempt to improve the lives and rights of homosexual couples and the LGBT communities share many of the same rights as heterosexuals. Moreover, Australia even has laws in place to protect LGBT people in the workplace and homosexuals are allowed to serve openly in the military, unlike in the USA where they operate a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. However, the legislation has perhaps not completely caught up with the progressive attitude of the people in Australia as same-sex marriage is yet to be legalised.
Uganda was at the centre of controversy in February last year when its parliament and its president approved the ‘Anti Homo-Sexuality Act’. The bill encouraged the growth of homophobia within Uganda, which was often expressed violently. This led to it being informally dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill.
The bill increased the penalties against those who engage in same sex activity within Uganda and asserted the country’s right to extradite Ugandans who have engaged in same sex activity abroad. It also imposed penalties for people or organisations who knew of gay people or supported LGBT rights. Although the law was declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court, the Ugandan MP who introduced the bill has already declared he will appeal this decision.
Iceland’s stance on LGBT issues is widely viewed as one of the most open and progressive. The government that took power in 2009 was led by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world’s first openly gay head of state. Advancements made by this government include giving same sex couples equal access to adoption, IVF and surrogacy treatment.
The government also changed the laws surrounding gender in 2012, which saw the creation of a department dedicated to the study of Gender Disphoria in one of Iceland’s largest hospitals. People who are believed to have Gender Disphoria undergo an 18 month process, including 12 months living as part of their preferred gender, before appearing before a panel who will permit a legal name and gender change if the diagnosis is appropriate.
Homosexuality has been legal in China since 1997, although it was legally considered a mental illness until 2001. Same sex couples also have different legal rights to heterosexual couples – for example they are not permitted to adopt children.
Unlike many other countries where LGBT rights are enshrined in law, there are no laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexuality or gender. This has resulted in censorship of many positive interpretations of homosexuality by the media and the continuing existence of informal discrimination against LGBT related issues.
The LGBT community is active in the society of Brazil, with over 300 LGBT organisations established across the country. The city of Sao Paulo also plays host to the worlds largest LGBT pride parade, attended by over 4 million people every year. Same sex couples also have the same financial and social rights as heterosexuals in brazil after a ruling made in 2011.
However, the situation is often difficult for transgender people. Although sex reassignment surgery is given free as it is classed as part of the right to medical care it is very difficult for transgender people to find employment opportunities, even in major cities.