A Study Breaking the Silence reveals that it is illegal to be a lesbian in almost a quarter of the world’s countries.
A new report, Breaking the Silence: Criminalisation of Lesbians and Bisexual Women and its Impacts, has found that it is illegal to be a lesbian in almost a quarter of all countries in the world.
The study was published as a lead-up to International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and produced by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT). HDT is a charitable legal organisation that works to overturn laws criminalising homosexuality.
Breaking the Silence found that laws criminalising homosexuality between men or women exist in 78 jurisdictions worldwide, which equates to 40 per cent of all countries. Of these, 80 per cent are Commonwealth countries.
While there has been a general global trend towards decriminalisation of homosexuality, at least 44 jurisdictions criminalise consensual same-sex intimacy between women, and 10 countries that previously only criminalised gay men have added new criminal sanctions against lesbians.
The study found that even in places where lesbians aren’t captured by the law, there have been reports of lesbians being subjected to arrest, detention and police abuse as well as severe forms of state-sanctioned family and community abuse.
Due to the combination of gender and sexual orientation, the report found that lesbian and bisexual women are vulnerable to certain kinds of human rights abuses including family violence, forced or pressured heterosexual marriage and “corrective” rape.
The laws criminalising consensual female-female sexual interaction often run parallel with other laws that impact women, including adultery and abortion laws, or laws permitting child marriage or marital rape. The overlap between the discrimination these women face as a result of their sexual orientation and the ways in which their freedom is limited by their gender puts these women at a unique risk of experiencing human rights abuses.
Of the results, Baroness Barker has said, “This is a ground-breaking piece of research. There is not another document in existence that looks so comprehensively at the legal and social impact of anti-gay laws on women who have sex with women. It is an important document for anyone working to help lesbian and bi women live in safety and with dignity the world over.”
Breaking the Silence also reveals that countries with greater gender equality are less likely to criminalise homosexuality in any form. By the same token, the aim of eradicating violence against women will never be realised while lesbians and bisexual women are made targets of violence by laws that criminalise them on the basis of their sexual orientation.
Human Dignity Trust plans to release a series of ‘briefing notes’ with Breaking the Silence to be the first in the series. The series will look at the wider impact of criminalisation of the diverse groups that make up the LGBT community.
To read the full report, click here.