With many people around the world marking Pride Month throughout June, now is an ideal time to reflect on the progress made towards LGBTI+ equality globally since last year's celebrations. From Sudan's lifting of the death penalty as a punishment for gay sex, to Norway's promise to protect LGBTI+ refugees, many significant human rights victories have been achieved in the past 12 months. Take a look:
Shortly after last year's Pride Month ended, the Norwegian government announced that refugees who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender will be prioritized when transferring from one asylum country to another for permanent resettlement. The move is designed to protect the LGBTI+ community in Norway, and to recognize that refugees may sadly need to flee persecution due to their sexual orientation.
February of this year saw a huge moment for the LGBTI+ community in Angola, when a new law decriminalizing sex between same-sex people went into effect – overturning a colonial-era ban which encouraged discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Angola's parliament passed the changes in January of 2019, but they were not signed into law until November 2020. In an additional win, the new law also prohibits discrimination based upon a person's sexual orientation.
Following a gay couple's five-year fight for the right to family life, a court in Croatia ruled in April that same-sex partners could finally adopt children. Ivo Šegota and Mladen Kožić became Croatia's first-ever same-sex foster parents in 2020, a ruling which helped pave the way for same-sex adoption in the country – a move which will benefit not only adopters, but of course the many children who need a loving, safe home too.
The UK saw several positive developments for the LGBTI+ community. In December 2020, a landmark change to UK policy meant that sexually active gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood, effectively lifting the outright ban on blood from men who have sex with men. This change is due to come into force in the summer of 2021. The abusive practice of forced 'conversion therapy' was also finally banned in May of this year (although it is yet to be enacted), and specifically in England, an LGBT-inclusive sex education curriculum was rolled out in September 2020, after several delays. While these are all promising developments, we eagerly await their proper implementation and positive outcomes.
In July 2020, Sudan made the decision to lift the death penalty and flogging as punishment for gay sex. Same-sex relations are criminalized in most of Africa (largely in part to colonial rule) and the Middle East, with Sudan being one of six countries that imposed the death penalty for gay sex. The reform was part of a series of amendments announced simultaneously and , include a ban on female genital mutilation and women will be able to travel with their children without a permit from a male relative.
In March 2020, a district court in Japan made a landmark ruling that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is 'unconstitutional' – setting a new precedent. While the courts did not go as far as to legalize same-sex marriage, there is hope that this will increase pressure on the country to change its discriminatory laws for good. Given that 68% of people polled in Japan in 2019 said homosexuality should be accepted by society, we hope this change will come as quickly as possible.
A long way to go
These changes are long overdue, but there is still some way to go for true equality. From the arrest of 21 people in Ghana for 'advocating LGBTQ activities' just weeks ago, to dozens of Polish towns declaring themselves 'LGBT-free zones', to former US President Trump's last minute rolling back of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people seeking the services of health and welfare programmes shortly before he left office. It's clear the fight for the rights, safety, freedom, and happiness of LGBTI+ people is ongoing and governments worldwide must take the lead until this fight is no longer needed.