Same-sex acts between two consenting adults are illegal in 70 UN member states. In other countries, laws prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ rights or leave LGBTQ+ people unprotected from discrimination and violence.
It is difficult to gauge just how many LGBTQ+ identifying people live in these areas (note: a 2016 Gallup poll found that 4.1% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+). Their lives are covered up by the law and societal codes, but they are not invisible. Here are four stories of LGBTQ+ lives in four different countries: Russia, Kuwait, Jamaica, and Nigeria.
In 2013, Russia passed a law “For the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values”, or as it is more widely known in Western media, the Gay Propaganda Law. The law outlawed any positive discussion of homosexuality on the internet or in public spaces.
In 2017, a report broke that gay and bisexual men were being rounded up, beaten, and in some cases killed by authorities in Chechnya, a federal subject of Russia.
Anna (she/they) is a student from Moscow, Russia, currently studying in the United States. Anna asked not to include her last name.
Homosexuality and transgenderism are outlawed in Kuwait under the country’s “Debauchery” law, with up to six years jail time.
Sarah (she/her) is a student from Kuwait, currently studying at NYU’s Shanghai and New York campuses. Sarah asked not to include her last name.
Sodomy is illegal in Jamaica, under the Buggery Laws inherited from British colonial rule. While the law specifically targets cisgender men and transgender women, lesbians, bi women, and other transgender people face social discrimination and abuse.
Kadeem Robinson (they/he) grew up in Jamaica and is currently working in the US.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Nigeria, with sentences ranging from up to 14 years in prison to death. While the law tends to focus on male same-sex relations, some states have enacted specific laws outlawing lesbianism.
Edafe Okporo (he/him) fled Nigeria in 2016 and was granted asylum in the US in 2017. Edafe is now executive director of the RDJ Refugee Shelter in New York City and hosts #ThisIsEdafeOkporo.
Activism is not limited to the US. LGBTQ+ rights organizations have emerged throughout the world, even where legal systems are played against them. There are currently no known LGBTQ+ organizations in Kuwait.
Created in 2006,Russian LGBT Network works to fight the Gay Propaganda law and disseminate media information regarding the state of LGBTQ+ life in Russia.
Children-404 is an online forum for LGBTQ+ teens, following the enactment of the Gay Propaganda law.
INCRESE advocates for sexual and reproductive rights in Nigeria. This includes rights for sexual minorities and HIV/AIDS prevention.
JFLAG (also known as Equality Jamaica) advocates for LGBTQ+ visibility and education in Jamaican society.