Listed: the 80-plus states that criminalise homosexuality today

Belize will be first target of new legal rights group.

If you want to understand how half the countries that still criminalise homosexuality came to do so, look no further than the British Empire. The list of 84 jurisdictions across the world, compiled by the newly formed Human Dignity Trust (HDT), includes 42 Commonwealth countries, or 80 per cent of the Commonwealth community.

Almost all imported British laws in place in the late nineteenth century that, at that time, outlawed homosexual acts. It took until the 1967 Sexual Offences Act before England and Wales repealed its own legislation and until the 1980s before Scotland and Northern Ireland did the same. But those laws originally imposed during colonial times remain largely in place elsewhere, even in a post-independence era.

In five countries around the world, same sex sexual conduct carries the death penalty while across the Commonwealth penalities for homosexuality include a 20-year jail sentence plus flogging. According to the HDT, half a dozen Commonwealth countries specify life imprisonment.

Last month the Prime Minister David Cameron used a Commonwealth summit to threaten the withdrawal of British aid from countries that fail to respect gay rights. Human rights barrister and director of HDT Jonathan Cooper refuses to be drawn on "aid conditionality" but says: "Our only purpose is the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the only way to do that is through the rule of law."

Cooper says that the organisation -- which has secured £2m of pro bono work from UK law firms over the next three years -- will aim to initiate at least five, and up to ten, cases a year.

The first case will be heard next month in Belize where the organisation will attempt to help overturn section 53 of the country's criminal code. This asserts that "every person who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any person or animal shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years."

 

List of countries/regions criminalising homosexuality

Africa
1. Algeria
2. Angola
3. Botswana
4. Burundi
5. Cameroon
6. Comoros
7. Egypt
8. Eritrea
9. Ethiopia
10. Gambia
11. Ghana
12. Guinea
13. Kenya
14. Lesotho
15. Liberia
16. Libya
17. Malawi
18. Mauritania
19. Mauritius
20. Morocco
21. Mozambique
22. Namibia
23. Nigeria São Tomé and Principe
24. North Sudan
25. Senegal
26. Seychelles
27. Sierra Leone
28. Somalia
29. South Sudan
30. Swaziland
31. Tanzania
32. Togo
33. Tunisia
34. Uganda
35. Zambia
36. Zimbabwe

Asia
1. Afghanistan
2. Bangladesh
3. Bahrain
4. Bhutan
5. Brunei
6. some parts of Indonesia (South Sumatra and Aceh Province)
7. Iran
8. Iraq
9. The State of Jammu and Kashmir in India
10. Kuwait
11. Lebanon
12. Malaysia
13. Maldives
14. Myanmar
15. Oman
16. Pakistan
17. Qatar
18. Saudi Arabia
19. Singapore
20. Sri Lanka
21. Syria
22. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (internationally unrecognised)
23. Turkmenistan
24. United Arab Emirates
25. Uzbekistan
26. Yemen
27. Occupied Palestinian Territory

Latin America & Caribbean
1. Antigua and Barbuda
2. Barbados
3. Belize
4. Dominica
5. Grenada
6. Guyana
7. Jamaica
8. St Kitts & Nevis
9. St Lucia
10. St Vincent & the Grenadines
11. Trinidad and Tobago

Oceania
1. Kiribati
2. Nauru
3. Palau
4. Papua New Guinea
5. Samoa
6. Solomon Islands
7. Tonga
8. Tuvalu
9. the New Zealand associate of Cook Islands

 

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who's winning the European referendum? The Vicar of Dibley gives us a clue

These polls seem meaningless, but they reveal things more conventional ones miss.

At the weekend, YouGov released some polling on 30 fictional characters and their supposed views on Brexit.  If you calculate a net pro-Remain score (per cent thinking that person would back Remain minus the per cent thinking they’d vote for Leave), you have a list that is topped by Geraldine Granger, the Vicar of Dibley (+21), and ends with Jim Royle (-38).

It’s easy to mock this sort of thing, and plenty did: “pointless”, “polling jumping the shark”, and so on. Some even think pollsters ask daft questions just to generate cheap headlines. What a cynical world we live in.

But the answers to those questions tell you quite a lot, both about the referendum campaign and about voters in general.

For one thing, most of the fictional characters that people saw as voting to Remain are (broadly) nice people, whilst the Outers included a fair few you’d not want to be stuck in a lift with, along with other chancers and wasters. On one side, you have the Vicar of Dibley (+21), Mary Poppins (+13), Miranda (+11), and Dr Who (+9) taking on Hyacinth Bucket (-13), Tracy Barlow (-15), Del Boy (-28), and Basil Fawlty (-36) on the other. This isn’t really much of a contest.

Obviously, some of these are subjective judgements. Personally, I’d not want to be stuck in a lift with the Vicar of Dibley under any circumstances – but she’s clearly meant to be a broadly sympathetic character.  Ditto – with knobs on – Miranda. And yes, some of the Outer characters are more nuanced. Captain Mainwaring (-31) may be pompous and insecure, but he is a brave man doing his best for his country. But still, it’s hard not to see some sort of division here, between broadly good people (Remain) and some more flawed individuals (Out).

So, on one level, this offers a pretty good insight into how people see the campaigns.  It’s why polling companies ask these sort of left-field questions – like the famous Tin Man and Scarecrow question asked by John Zogby – because they can often get at something that normal questions might miss. Sure, they also generate easy publicity for the polling company – but life’s not binary: some things can generate cheap headlines and still be interesting.

But there are two caveats. First, when you look at the full data tables you find that the numbers saying Don’t Know to each of these questions are really big– as high as 55 per cent for both Tracy Barlow and Arthur Dent. The lowest is for both Basil Fawlty and Del Boy, but that’s still 34 per cent. For 26 out of the 30 characters, the plurality response was Don’t Know. The data don’t really show that the public think Captain Birdseye (-11) is for Out; when half of all respondents said they don’t know, they show that the public doesn’t really have a clue what Captain Birdseye thinks.

Much more importantly, second, when you look at the cross breaks, it becomes clear how much of this is being driven by people’s own partisan views. Take James Bond, for example. Overall, he was seen as slightly pro-Remain (+5). But he’s seen as pro-Brexit (-22) by Brexit voters, and pro-Remain (+30) by Remain voters.

The same split applies to Dr Who, Postman Pat, Sherlock Holmes, Miranda, and so on.

In fact, of the 30 characters YouGov polled about, there were just eleven where respondents from both sides of the debate agreed – and these eleven excluded almost all of the broadly positive characters.

So, here’s the ten characters where both Remain and Leave voters agreed would be for Brexit: Alan Partridge; Jim Royle; Del Boy; Hyacinth Bucket; Pat Butcher; Tracy Barlow; Captain Mainwaring; Catherine Tate’s Nan; Cruella De Vil; and Basil Fawlty.

That’s not a great roll call. And it must be saying something that even Outers think Cruella De Vil, Alan Patridge, and Hyacinth Bucket would be one of theirs.

Mind you, the only pro-Remain character that both sides agree on is Sir Humphrey Appleby. That’s not great either.

For the rest, everyone wants them for their own.

So what about those who say they don’t yet know how they will vote in the referendum? These might be the key swing voters, after all. Maybe they can give a more unbiased response. Turns out their ranking is broadly similar to the overall one – with scores that are somewhere between the views of the Outers and the Inners.

But with this group the figures for don’t knows get even bigger: 54 per cent at a minimum, rising to a massive 77 per cent for Arthur Dent.

And that’s because, lacking a partisan view about the referendum, they are not able to project this view onto fictional characters.  They lack, in the jargon, a heuristic enabling them to answer the question. Which tells you something about how most people answered the questions.

Philip Cowley is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London.