Observed in both the United States and United Kingdom, June marks the 21st anniversary of LGBT History Month. Originally named Lesbian and Gay History Month, this month-long celebration recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, as well as gay rights and civil rights movements.
LGBT rights may be acknowledged in the United States, members of the LGBT community in others countries are not so lucky. While the United States Supreme Court may currently be debating the legality of same sex marriage, other countries have been banning homosexuality altogether.
In fact, 77 countries—mostly in Africa and the Middle East have deemed homosexuality illegal. Of the 77 countries, 10 have gone as far as making homosexuality a crime punishable by death. LGBT advocates estimate that over 4,000 gays and lesbians have been executed since the 1979 Islamic revolutions.
Here are the 10 countries in which you may be put to death for being gay.
Iran’s legal code, which is based on Islamic Shari’a law, states that all sexual relations outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage are illegal. Homosexual intercourse between consulting adult men is a crime and carries a maximum punishment of death. Men can even be flogged for lesser acts like kissing.
Interestingly, homosexuality may be a crime in Iran, but the country does recognize transgender men and women. Often times, Iranian gay men and women are forced into gender reassignment surgery to avoid facing the death penalty. Currently, Iran performs more gender reassignment surgeries than any country other than Thailand.
Although Iraq’s penal code does not explicitly prohibit homosexual acts, members of LGBT community have been subject to discrimination, abuse, and honor killings—in which victims are killed by their own families.
In 2012, a BBC investigation found that Iraqi law enforcement agencies were involved in systematic and continuing violence against gay men and women—including murder.
Located in the western region of North Africa, LGBT citizens of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania can be sentenced to death for engaging in same-sex relations. An unofficial English translation of Mauritania’s 1983 Criminal Code states, "Any adult Muslim man who commits an impudent act against nature with an individual of his sex will face the penalty of death by public stoning."
Widely criticized for its treatment of LGBT people, Nigeria does not allow or recognize LGBT rights. In 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, the punishment for same-sex activity is death by stoning. In southern Nigeria and more secular parts of the country, the maximum punishment is 14 years in prison.
According to the Pew Research Center, 98 percent of Nigerian residents believe that homosexuality is not an acceptable way of life.
Homosexuality is not a crime punishable by death in Qatar, but the country makes our list because anyone—regardless of sexual orientation—can be put to death for extramarital sex. Additionally, sodomy between men touts a one to three year prison sentence in Qatar. In 1995, an American citizen, who was found guilty of homosexual activity in Qatar, was sentenced to six months imprisonment and 90 lashes.
Under this Arab state’s interpretation of Shari’a law, a married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim man who commit sodomy can be stoned to death. Saudi Arabian law also punishes homosexuality and cross-dressing with fines, prison sentences, corporal punishment, whipping, and chemical castrations.
Just last year, a 24-year-old Saudi Arabia was given three years detention and 450 lashes after being found guilty of arranging dates between men on Twitter.
Although Somalia’s Penal Code specifies prison for homosexual acts, some members of the LGBT community have received the death penalty by Islamic courts in southern regions of the country.
In 2013, Islamic rebels stoned a gay Somali teenager to death as punishment for being gay.
According to the Sudan Criminal Act of 1991, three-time offenders under the country’s sodomy law can be put to death. Initial and second offenses carry punishments of imprisonment and flogging.
A 2011 U.S. State Department human rights report found that Sudanese vigilantes target LGBT persons for violent abuse and publicly demonstrate against homosexuality.
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates Penal Code is unclear regarding whether homosexuality is punishable by death. According to Article 354, the perpetrators of rape can be put to death, but the law can also be translated to include rape victims being sentenced as well. This is due to the fact that UAE law bans all extra-marital sexual activity.
In accordance with Shari’a law, homosexuality is illegal in Yemen and a crime that is punishable by death. According to Article 264 of the 1994 Penal Code, married men found guilty of engaging in homosexual intercourse can be stoned to death. Unmarried men can be punished with 100 lashes of a whip, and women may face seven years in prison.