The Indian Supreme Court is to announce the result of its review of Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalises homosexual sex. The announcement of the Court will be made no later than October 2018. In early 2016 the Court announced that they would be renewing the provision, giving hope to LGBT activists that the infamous section, a hangover from British colonial rule, would be struck down. In August 2017 the Court ruled that the right to privacy was “intrinsic” and “fundamental” which galvanised the LGBT rights movement in India. India is more tolerant of LGBT people than in other parts of Asia but it is by no means a country that is welcoming to sexual and gender minorities.
In many ways 2018 could be a titanic year for LGBT rights and knowing where advances could be made can be a cause for spurring on activists on the ground and increasing the international attention paid to these struggles. In the first article on this subject, I looked at four countries that could see significant progress made in the coming year. These four were examples of nation-states where I would be actively surprised if something substantial didn’t happen in the next 12 months. The four countries at the focus of this article are still noteworthy, but would require a bigger push by campaigners and activists. This distinction in no way means that the follow countries are out of reach in 2018 as anti-LGBT attitudes are softening and the prospects for equality have never been better. In each instance there is either increasing public support for LGBT equality but an absence of political or new policy-makers are coming to the fore that would be sympathetic to a pro-equality agenda. Sustained international pressure could both force legislators into action and provide much needed solidarity to those activists on the ground. Continue reading →
Despite some alarming trends of world politics in the last year or so, such as ongoing religious extremism and the rise of the far-right, there is some cause of optimism going into the next 12 months. The LGBT rights movement around the world went from strength to strength in 2017 and 2018 has the potential to be another landmark year in the struggle for liberation. Activists across the globe have been agitating for a number of years and the fruits of their labour are close to be being realised in the weeks and months ahead. But what is especially noteworthy about the political contexts of their potential success is that many are in less developed countries and/or are quite quite socially conservative in other areas. 2018 could therefore be the year when social conservatives in all corners of the world are markedly less hostile to LGBT people. In this first article, I’ll be looking at countries where I believe the cause of equality is almost certain to gain ground.
The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that existing laws making provision for civil partnerships and civil marriages violate non-discrimination rules. As a consequence same-sex couples have been permitted to get married and heterosexual couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships. The court case was brought by a lesbian couple who had been prohibited from entering into a same-sex marriage, however the Supreme Court ruled that the distinction between civil unions and marriages couldn’t be legally upheld. According to Reuters, the court said in its ruling “people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations, in which it is not relevant”. The ruling will allow for same-sex marriages to take place from 2019.
Australia will become the latest country to legalise same-sex marriage after the country voted overwhelmingly in a non-binding postal vote to back the move. The turnout was a remarkable 79.5% and found that, of these around 12.7 million people, 61.6% backed equal marriage and only 38.4% voting against. Although the plebiscite won’t change the law in and of itself, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that he wants to change the law by Christmas but as others have pointed out Turnbull has previously been less clear on the timeline for legalisation. Although there should be time for celebrating a big step forward, we must not take our eyes off the ball as full equality is still a long way off.
The global fight from LGBT rights has largely moved away from the Western hemisphere and is now developing countries are increasingly the battleground of equality. One such area is the African continent, where only one nation-state, South Africa, has legalised same-sex marriage. Additionally, in parts of Africa homosexual acts can be punished by execution or mob violence can spontaneously erupt against LGBT individuals. When African countries make headlines in this area we often see reports of religious fundamentalists talking about how it is unnatural to be LGBT or inciting violence against sexual minorities. However in the last week we have something encouraging from Botswana.
One of the issues currently dominating the political discourse of Australia is whether or not the country should legalise same-sex marriage. The actual substance behind this discussion is not the question in most people’s minds, as poll after poll has shown a healthy majority of Australians in support of marriage equality. Indeed, in recent weeks the case has become even more overwhelming as, although opponents of equality often cite their sincerely held religious beliefs, a poll by Galaxy Research found that a majority of Christians in Australia supported equal marriage. Rather than policy substance, the debate has shifted to how equality is introduced. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that there will be a non-binding postal vote plebiscite on the issue and some have since argued that such a vote should be boycotted. I would strongly recommend not to do that.