10 nations where the penalty for gay sex is deathBy Colin Stewart
Ten nations with large Muslim populations have laws providing for the death penalty for same-sex activity.
Only a few actually impose the death sentence. Exactly how many is a difficult question.
The 2016 State-Sponsored Homophobia report from ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, lists 13-14 places that threaten the death penalty for homosexuality, including the basic 10 plus several specific variations:
- One where executions occur — and go unpunished — despite the fact that there is no death-penalty law (Iraq);
- One that has approved a death-penalty provision but has not yet incorporated it into the nation’s laws (Brunei);
- One that conducts executions but is not recognized as a nation (the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL);
- One where, in theory, a particular interpretation of its laws would provide for the death penalty but, in practice, no executions have been reported (United Arab Emirates)
A best-information-available list of countries/regions where executions for homosexual activity are carried out or are provided by current or future law:
Nations with such laws on the books; executions have been carried out
2. Saudi Arabia
Nations with such laws on the books; no recent executions reported
Nations with such laws on the books in part of the country; no verified executions for homosexual activity
Nations with such laws on the books; no executions reported
Those are the “ten nations with large Muslim populations” mentioned in this article’s first paragraph.” In addition, executions and possible executions are an issue in four other places:
Nation with no such a law on the books; executions are carried out by militias and others
Not recognized as a nation; carries out executions
12. Daesh/the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)
Nation where such a law was scheduled to take effect in 2016 (but might not)
13. Brunei Darussalam
Nation where some interpretations of existing law would provide for the death penalty, but no executions have been reported
14. United Arab Emirates
News coverage in all of those nations is unreliable at best, so specific evidence of executions for same-sex intimacy is rare. What’s known about some specific countries is cited below.
In Somalia, a gay teenager was reportedly stoned to death in 2013, but those reports have not been verified.
In Nigeria, the BBC reported in 2007, “More than a dozen Nigerian Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning and for sexual offences ranging from adultery and homosexuality. But none of these death sentences have actually been carried out as they were either thrown out on appeal or commuted to prison terms as a result of pressure from human rights groups.”
In Sudan, the death penalty is in frequent use, but there are no recent reports of executions for same-sex intimacy. In 2014, Sudan ranked at No. 6 worldwide in number of executions (23+) for various offenses, just below the United States, with 35, according to Amnesty International.
Similarly, Yemen is No. 7 in frequency of executions overall, but the death penalty apparently has not been imposed recently for homosexual activity. Researchers for Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board reported more than 10 years ago, “Information on whether such sentences have been carried out was not found.” More recently an article on Yemen’s gay community in The Tower magazine stated, “Traditionally, that death penalty is not enforced, but citizens have been imprisoned for their sexual orientation.”
Saudi Arabia is No. 3 among the world’s most avid executioners, with 90+ in 2014. At least in the past, beheadings were imposed for homosexual behavior, including three men in 2002. Imprisonment and lashings are a more common punishment for same-sex activity.
Iran is No. 2 in the world for frequency of executions, behind China. Those include executions for homosexual activity, although the facts are often unclear or misrepresented in such cases. (See, for example, “Bogus hanging in Iran, bogus tweets in Egypt” and “Series of public hangings in Iran, including 2 for sodomy.”)
Evidence is a bit clearer about two war-torn areas — Iraq and the territory controlled by Daesh/the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). The ILGA report of 2015 noted that “Iraq, although [the death penalty is] not in the civil code, clearly has judges and militias throughout the country that issue the death sentence for same-sex sexual behaviours. … We are also aware that in the Daesh(ISIS/ISIL)-held areas the death penalty is implemented (although a non-State actor, it is listed in the report). ” For examples, see:
- Iraq has become a death trap for gay men (September 2012)
- ‘Islamic State’ has reported 15 LGBTI executions (May 2015)
Brunei Darussalam is due to activate the death penalty for same-sex sexual acts in 2016, but it seems likely that like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Qatar although it is on the statute, it will not be implemented.ILGA reported in 2016 about Brunei: “there is no sign that the threatened death penalty is to be implemented.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, Mauritania belongs in this category too. A U.S. Department of State cable from 2009, released by WikiLeaks in 2011, indicated that Mauritania has never imposed the death penalty for homosexual activity or any other crime.
ILGA reported in 2016 that “although is understood that the United Arab Emirates has not implemented [the death penalty] under the Sharia code, it remains a possibility under interpretations current in the Emirates.”