In a ground-breaking report, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, recognises that the criminalisation of homosexuality, and other discriminatory laws applying to LGBT people leads to violence and impunity. The UN Special Rapporteur’s function is to interpret the UN Convention Against Torture. This statement will provide a new tool for activists and lawyers globally who are trying to undo the criminal laws against homosexuality which still exist in 78 jurisdictions worldwide.

The report states:

States are complicit in violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons whenever they create and implement discriminatory laws that trap them in abusive circumstances.

And explicitly condemns the criminalisation of homosexuality:

“(Criminalising) laws foster a climate in which violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons by both State and non-State actors is condoned and met with impunity.”

This confirms what activists and LGBT people living in these countries have witnessed all along: that these laws directly cause and exacerbate homophobic and transphobic violence and other egregious human rights abuses. It reaffirms that these laws force LGBT people to live in unbearable circumstances; alone, afraid, and unprotected by the rule of law.

This report should also raise substantial questions about the UK government’s duty to LGBT asylum seekers fleeing persecution, as it confirms that if they are hailing from criminalising countries they are trying to escape the worst possible circumstances.

This report reinforces and highlights the duty on states all over the world to condemn and contest any law which criminalises LGBT people on the basis of their identity. It poses the difficult but important question of what exactly are the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and others doing to impart to criminalising governments that these laws will not be tolerated in the 21st century.

Bisi Alimi, LGBT activist from Nigeria, said:

“As someone who was forced to leave my home because of the constant and horrific levels of homophobic treatment I was subjected to in Nigeria, this report confirms what many from the LGBT community already knew from personal experience. I hope and believe that this report will give weight to the voices of the activist community who are working every day to challenge the barbaric laws which exist in my home country of Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, which do unspeakable damage to LGBT people like myself.”

Jonathan Cooper, Chief Executive of Human Dignity Trust, said:

“State’s complicity in violence and impunity will violate the UN Convention Against Torture. As the UN Special Rapporteur has established, criminalisation of homosexuality fosters and foments violence and impunity against LGBT people. That violence and impunity cannot end with these criminal laws in place. There is no way states can continue to defend their criminalising laws. The criminalisation of homosexuality is already prohibited under international human rights law. This report puts the matter beyond doubt. Criminalisation of homosexuality is a serious and systemic human rights violations. It causes persecution. It has to end.”

Read the UN Special Rapporteur’s full statement.

Sign up to receive updates

Join our newsletter to receive regular updates about decriminalisation efforts around the world, including breaking news on key legal cases, hot off the press reports, invitations to events and messages from our Chief Executive.