This article was published on December 26th, 2016
The gay community in North America enjoys many rights, freedoms, and legal protection. It has taken activists years to achieve. While there are still many issues pertaining to and surrounding social and civil equality, the gay community has come a long way since the days of homosexuality being a criminal offence. While LGBT members strive for social acceptance and equality, when it comes to international gay rights, there are countries where basic levels of protection are withheld from the gay community. In fact, even today there are countries where homosexuality is not only socially unacceptable, but carries legal consequences and, in some cases, can carry the death penalty.
Today, there are 72 countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality and, of these countries, ten of which carry the death penalty. There are huge numbers of refugees fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation; however this isn’t always a simple thing for them to access.
“There is a distinct difference between discrimination and persecution and only those who can prove they are being persecuted can access and meet the refugee criteria of the United Nations Human Rights Council definition,” said Carl Meadows, a Canadian LGBT and human rights advocate, knows and understand these worldwide issues.
According to Meadows, there is a fundamental reason behind the reasons these laws continue to exist.
“The sodomy laws are around because there is no political will to remove them,” Carl Meadows explained. “It validates the danger of cultural non-conformity and to establish fear against Western culture.”
Western countries are often presented as being much more liberal than their more conservative counterparts.
“Western countries have not always been liberal around sexual orientation,” Carl Meadows told HomoCulture in an exclusive interview. “We are just at different levels of evolution within western countries. Australian LGBT+ people still do not have access to equal marriage as one example of that evolution.”
Because western countries have certain legal protections it appears, on the surface, that they are more liberal.
“Many of these 72 countries have lasting legacies of colonization of the west that brought in laws against homosexuality,” Carl Meadows pointed out.
It raises the question of where these anti-gay sentiments originated from in the first place. If homosexuality and liberalism is associated with the west, is this level of homophobia more a display of anti western attitudes than anti gay?
These questions are important to ask because, without fully understanding the reasons behind the evolution of these attitudes we cannot effectively challenge them. Religion is often closely linked to being a causal factor of homophobia.
“Quebec was the most Catholic province in Canada and the most liberal on equal rights,” Carl explains. “It would be safe to say that religion alone doesn’t correlate with the states view on homosexuality in all cases.” It’s too easy to simply generalise that religion causes homophobic attitudes because the sociological evidence says otherwise.
Tackling homophobia, international gay rights, and fighting for the rights of everyone, worldwide, who belongs to the gay community is a complex and challenging battle to take on, but it is so important because until we have the same rights for everyone in our community we do not have equality. In the words of Martin Luther King “’Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
How can you get involved?
“The best way to help other is to give to charities that work with LGBT+ people,” advised Carl Meadows. “This is where the most influence can occur as those newcomers become active members of society and can be strong social change agents in the countries they come from making it better for others.”
Have you or someone you know experienced issues of social acceptance, injustice, or had consequences against freedoms and rights? Leave your story in the comments section below.