Death penalty for homosexuality

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The death penalty for homosexuality was historically implemented by a number of countries worldwide. It currently remains a legal punishment in several countries and regions, all of which have sharia-based criminal laws. Being prescribed by the law does not necessarily mean that the penalty is carried out in practice. Gay people have also fallen victim to extrajudicial killings by state and non-state actors.

In current state laws[edit]

  Death penalty for homosexuality
  Death penalty on books but not applied

As of 2019, the following jurisdictions prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality:

  •  Afghanistan. A new Penal Code enacted in February 2018 explicitly criminalises same-sex sexual conduct. Sources cited by ILGA indicate that there is a "broad consensus amongst scholars that execution was the appropriate punishment if homosexual acts could be proven”.[1] The sharia category of zina (illicit sexual intercourse), which according to some traditional Islamic legal schools may entail the hadd (sharia-prescribed) punishment of stoning, when strict evidential requirements are met. The Hanafi school, prevalent in Afghanistan, does not regard homosexual acts as a hadd crime, although Afghan judges may potentially apply the death penalty for a number of reasons. No known death sentences for homosexuality have been passed since the end of Taliban rule in 2001.[2][3]
  •  Brunei's Sharia Penal Code, implemented in stages since 2014, prescribes death by stoning as punishment for same-sex relations.[4] After international backlash, in May 2019, the Sultan of Brunei explained that a "de facto" moratorium on the execution of the death penalty has been in force in the country for the last two decades.[5] This moratorium could be lifted at any time.
  •  Iran.[6] Homosexual intercourse is declared a capital offense in Iran's Islamic Penal Code, enacted in 1991. Though the grounds for execution in Iran are difficult to track, there is evidence that several people were hanged for homosexual behavior in 2005-2006 and in 2016, in some cases on dubious charges of rape.[7][8]
  •  Mauritania.[6] According to a 1984 law, Muslim men can be stoned for engaging in homosexual sex, though no executions have occurred so far.[9] The country observes a moratorium on the execution of the death penalty since 1987.[10]
  •  Nigeria, where several northern states have adopted sharia-based criminal laws.[11]
  •  Pakistan, where the death penalty for homosexual acts is technically permitted by the law, but not applied in practice.[6]
  •  Qatar, applicable only to Muslims, for extramarital sex regardless of the gender of the participants. There is no evidence that the death penalty has been applied for consensual same-sex relations taking place between adults and in private.[12]
  •  Saudi Arabia, which does not have codified criminal laws.[6] According to the country's interpretation of sharia, a married man who commits sodomy, or a non-Muslim who engages in sodomy with a Muslim, can be stoned to death.[9] There were unconfirmed reports that two cross-dressing Pakistani nationals were killed by Saudi authorities in 2017, which Saudi officials have denied.[6]
  •  Somalia ( Jubaland), where Islamic courts have imposed sharia-based death penalties in some southern regions.[6][9]
  •  Sudan, for a third conviction.[6]
  •  United Arab Emirates: Legal experts disagree on whether the federal law of the United Arab Emirates prescribes the death penalty for consensual gay sex or only for rape.[9] Article 354 of the Federal Penal Code states: "whoever resorts to coercion in sexual intercourse with a female or homosexuality with a male, shall be punished by the death penalty."[13] A recent Amnesty International report claims that there are no instances of death sentences for homosexual acts.[9] However, LGBT Nation reported in 2016 that a gay man was on trial and facing the death penalty for posting a photo of himself in drag on social media.[14]
  •  Yemen: If the same-sex activity occurs outside of marriage, the death penalty can be enforced.[15] Oftentimes, death is the resulting penalty due to honor killings and vigilante executions.[16]

Extrajudicial killings[edit]

In some regions, gay people have been murdered by Islamist militias, such as ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria and the Houthi movement in Yemen.[6]

Anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation, have included forced disappearances — secret abductions, imprisonment, and torture — by authorities targeting persons based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of men, who authorities detained on suspicion of being gay or bisexual, have reportedly died after being held in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.[17][18]

Regions of Africa with Christian beliefs have had a common occurrence of vigilante executions and very widespread anti-gay sentiment.[19][20][21] In these countries, police tend to turn a blind eye and be unsympathetic, often being complicit in the killings and refusing to investigate.[22][23]



Australian states and territories inherited British laws relating to homosexuality, and laws passed in nineteenth century colonial parliaments retained the provisions which made homosexual activity a capital crime.[24] Over time, various jurisdictions began to reduce the death penalty for sodomy to life imprisonment, with Victoria being the last to remove the death penalty for this crime, in 1949.[24] The last person arrested for homosexual sex in Australia was a man in 1984 in Tasmania.[25] The last part of Australia to legalise consensual homosexual sex between adults was Tasmania in 1997. In 2017, homosexual marriage was legalised.

Nazi Germany[edit]

While many of the Christian majority countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia had begun to decriminalise homosexuality by the mid 20th century, Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party, with intense far-right nationalist support, outlawed homosexual groups and included homosexuals as one of the minority groups sent to concentration camps. An estimated 3000-9000 homosexuals died in concentration camps between 1933 and 1945, with another 2000-6000 survivors made to serve the rest of their sentence in prison under Paragraph 175.

United Kingdom[edit]

From 1533 the capital felony for any person to "commit the detestable and abominable vice of buggery with mankind or beast", was repealed and re-enacted several times, until it was reinstated in 1563 remaining unchanged until 1861.[26] The last execution took place on 27 November 1835 when James Pratt and John Smith were hanged at Newgate.

One source claims the last execution for sodomy in the British Empire happened in the Colony of Tasmania (now part of Australia) in 1867.[27]

United States and colonial America[edit]

Colonial America had the laws of the United Kingdom, and the revolutionary states took many of those laws as the basis of their own, in some cases verbatim.[26] The last law where the death penalty was on the statute books was South Carolina, the old British law was not repealed until 1873, twelve years after the mother country.[26]

The number of times the penalty was carried out is unknown. Records support two executions, and a number of more uncertain convictions, such as "crimes against nature".[26]


  1. ^ Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019 (PDF). Geneva: ILGA. p. 429.
  2. ^ "Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death". The Washington Post. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  3. ^ "The Death Penalty in Afghanistan". Death Penalty Worldwide. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  4. ^ correspondent, Hannah Ellis-Petersen South-east Asia (2019-03-28). "Brunei introduces death by stoning as punishment for gay sex". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  5. ^ "Brunei says it won't enforce gay death penalty after backlash". Reuters. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Aengus Carroll; Lucas Paoli Itaborahy (May 2015). "State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Laws: criminalisation, protection and recognition of same-sex love" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex association. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  7. ^ Asal, V.; Sommer, U.  Legal Path Dependence and the Long Arm of the Religious State: Sodomy Provisions and Gay Rights Across Nations and Over Time. State University of New York Press. p. 64.
  8. ^ "How homosexuality became a crime in the Middle East". The Economist. June 6, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e Bearak, Max; Cameron, Darla (16 June 2016). "Analysis - Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death". The Washington Post. Lawyers in the country and other experts disagree on whether federal law prescribes the death penalty for consensual homosexual sex or only for rape. In a recent Amnesty International report, the organization said it was not aware of any death sentences for homosexual acts.
  10. ^ Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019 (PDF). Geneva: ILGA. p. 347.
  11. ^ Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019 (PDF). Geneva: ILGA. p. 359.
  12. ^ Mendos, Lucas Ramón (2019). State-Sponsored Homophobia 2019 (PDF). Geneva: ILGA. p. 465.
  13. ^ "UAE Federal law of 1987". Legal Advice Middle East. Retrieved July 11, 2019.
  14. ^ Dawn Ennis (October 5, 2016). "One photo of gay man in drag lands him on death row in Abu Dhabi". LGBT Nation.
  15. ^ "GayLawNet®™ | Laws | Yemen | YE".
  16. ^ "No Place for Gays in Yemen | Inter Press Service".
  17. ^ Smith, Lydia (10 April 2017). "Chechnya detains 100 gay men in first concentration camps since the Holocaust". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  18. ^ Reynolds, Daniel (10 April 2017). "Report: Chechnya Is Torturing Gay Men in Concentration Camps". The Advocate. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
  19. ^ Rice, Xan (2011-01-27). "Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato found murdered". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Senegal: Gay Couple Brutally Assaulted by Parents". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  22. ^ United States Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (2012). "LIBERIA 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  23. ^ "Cameroonian LGBTI activist found tortured to death in home". GLAAD. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  24. ^ a b Carbery, Graham (2010). "Towards Homosexual Equality in Australian Criminal Law: A Brief History" (PDF) (2nd ed.). Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives Inc. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  25. ^ "Toonen v. Australia, Communication No. 488/1992, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992 (1994)". Retrieved 2019-10-08.
  26. ^ a b c d Louis Crompton (1976). "Homosexuals and the Death Penalty in Colonial America". Journal of Homosexuality. 1 (3): 277–293. doi:10.1300/j082v01n03_03. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  27. ^ "Homosexuality". Retrieved 2019-08-01.