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Human Rights Index #45

Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*

The end of the 20th century saw the beginning of a global movement toward increased visibility, recognition, and legal rights for homosexual people, including the rights to marriage and civil unions, adoption and parenting, employment, military service, equal access to health care, and the introduction of an anti-bullying legislation to protect gay minors. Since 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults violate the right to privacy under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. UN Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon summarizes the human rights law on homosexual relations as follows: “As men and women of conscience, we reject discrimination in general, and in particular discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Where there is a tension between cultural attitudes and universal human rights, rights must carry the day.” On June 26, 2015, the United States became the 21st country to recognize same-sex marriage in the landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. President Barack Obama praised the decision and called it a “victory for America.”

Despite such advances, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world frequently face cruel and brutal treatment. A December 15, 2011, report by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights detailed a disturbing pattern of human rights violations. Homosexuals are often victims of prejudice because their lifestyle contradicts religious beliefs or traditional values, and is viewed as “out of the norm” behavior. Individuals are discriminated against in the labor market, schools, and hospitals and may even be mistreated or disowned by their own families. People in the LGBT community are singled out and physically attacked by being beaten, sexually assaulted, tortured, and even killed. In some countries, discriminatory laws criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships, exposing individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, and – in at least five Muslim countries – the death penalty.

1— In 10 LGBT employees in the United States left a job because they felt the environment was unwelcoming (Catalyst 2015).

5— Percentage of Japan’s population who identify as LGBT. (Catalyst 2015).

18— Percentage of the respondents in the U.S. who believe that partners or spouses of gay and lesbian Americans should not be entitled to inheritance rights (Statista 2012).

20— Percentage of LGBT people in the EU who felt they experienced discrimination at work or when seeking employment because of their sexual orientation (Catalyst 2015).

26— Percentage of LGBT youth in the U.S. who reported struggling with acceptance by their families, bullying at school, and a fear of being open about their sexuality (LGBT Bullying Statistics 2014).

34— Percentage of the respondents in the U.S. who have stated that they think gay or lesbian relations are morally wrong (Statista 2015).

 42— Percentage of LGBT youth in the U.S. who consider themselves to live in a hostile environment where their lifestyle is not accepted (LGBT Bullying Statistics 2014).

 61— Number of countries that prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation (Catalyst 2015).

 88— The percent of Fortune 500 companies that have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation (Catalyst 2015).

 2009— The year that Delhi High Court in India decriminalized homosexual intercourse. However, same-sex marriage is neither banned nor explicitly permitted by Indian law (Catalyst 2013).

 17000— Number of people in the U.S. military that were discharged between 1993 and 2010 for refusing to conceal their sexual orientation during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era (Catalyst 2015).

*Copyright © 2016 by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). UICHR’s Human Rights Indexes have been prepared under the direction of Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and UICHR Senior Scholar Burns H. Weston, who passed away unexpectedly on October 28, 2015. Index #45 was one of three near completion at the time of Prof. Weston’s death. It was drafted by Prof. Weston with the generous assistance of Alice Pan, research assistant at the UI College of Law, and was finalized by Prof. Weston’s UICHR colleagues. The final three entries in the Human Rights Index series are being published in memory of Prof. Weston.

Past Human Rights Indexes are available here.