While LGBT persons fully enjoy their rights in countries like Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Uruguay, their counterparts in mostly African and Asian countries face a great deal of discrimination on a daily basis. But they’re not worried about not being able to enter a same sex-marriage; they’re worried about making it through another day – alive.
This list shows the seven worst countries for LGBT people to live and work in, in no specific order, where homosexuality is classed as a mental illness, considered morally and ethically wrong, and is punishable by life imprisonment, torture, and even the death penalty.
While discrimination against LGBT is outlawed by human rights organisations, like the UN, many LGBT people in these countries, and in another 70 where homosexuality is also illegal, are subjected to physical and psychological abuse by local authorities, society, employers, and their own families.
Image source: Heinrich Böll Stiftung / Gunda Werner Institute
While homosexuality is illegal in Iran, transsexuality is officially recognised and classed as a curable illness. Gay men therefore turn to sex change operations to avoid criminal charges, or worse, the death penalty. Official statistics show that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 transsexuals in Iran, which is reportedly the second country with the highest rate of gender reassignment surgeries in the world, behind Thailand. According to a 2013 report, LGBT people in Iran are often exposed to harassment at work and, even more often, denied employment, forcing some trans woman “to work the streets in order to provide for themselves”.
Image source: Alexandra Pugachevsky (Wikimedia Commons)
According to the US Department of State’s 2010 Human Rights Report: Yemen, “There was no official discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, statelessness, or access to education or healthcare, largely because, since the activity was illegal, LGBT issues were not considered relevant”. However, in the last two years, over 35 persons have been murdered by Al-Qaida linked militants on suspicion of being gay.
Image source: BBC
LGBT people weren’t always discriminated in Sudan. In fact, they were accepted and tolerated, and “older [gay] men… were married women’s best friends”. However, mindsets changed over time, especially those of middle-class people. Since homosexuality is illegal, the LGBT community in Sudan lead secret lives out of fear of facing criminal prosecution, the death penalty, or even “honour killings” by their own family members. One report stated that “even making contact with the underground LGB community in the country is a serious logistical challenge”.
4. Saudi Arabia
Image source: iStock
LGBT people do not have to live in Saudi Arabia to face educational and employment discrimination – it even occurs when living and working abroad. Ali Ahmad Asseri , the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, was harassed by his Saudi colleagues after discovering his sexual orientation. He applied for political asylum in the US in 2010 when his employers refused to renew his diplomatic passport, fearing that returning to Saudi Arabia would put his life in danger.
Image source: RedAlertLive
While equality is guaranteed to all its citizens in the Constitution of the Republic of Nigeria, several people have had their jobs terminated based on grounds of sexual orientation. As in Sudan, homosexuality was once tolerated in northern Nigeria, but everything changed when the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2011 was passed in 2013, with penalties of up to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Image source: iStock
Somalia practices the Shari’ah law, which punishes homosexual acts by flogging or the death penalty, even though the country’s Provisional Constitution assures equality.
Image source: Ferdinand Reus (Wikimedia Commons)
“Evidence of societal violence, societal discrimination, or systematic acts of government discrimination” is hardly recorded in Mauritania, but LGBT persons are denied employment and career development, while the death penalty is imposed for homosexuality.
Poor Living and Working Conditions
In extreme cases, they are often placed in house arrest or disowned by their families for “shaming” them, and as a result turn to suicide to end their personal hell. Others live in isolation and turn to prostitution and crime to support themselves.
Those who are lucky enough to get out alive, flee to more tolerant western countries, in pursuit of a better life and better employment opportunities.