The acceptance and tolerance of homosexual and LGBTQ+ individuals varies widely from one country to another. Some countries are considered quite gay-friendly and offer significant LGBTQ+ rights and protections to their LGBTQ+ populations—for instance, a growing number of countries have made gay marriage legal.
Other countries are less welcoming. In these countries, not only is gay marriage unlawful, but simply being a member of the LGBTQ+ community can be considered a crime—punishable by death in some cases. Countries that follow Sharia law are particularly likely to view homosexuality as a sin worthy of the death penalty. Moreover, even in countries in which homosexuality and other LGBTQI+-adjacent activities are legal, society at large may discriminate against the LGBTQI+ community, even to the point of subjecting LGBTQI+ individuals to violence. Brazil and Iran are often cited as examples of such a scenario.
Creating a list of which countries are the most homophobic is a challenging process due to the facts that homophobia is both difficult to quantify and takes on a myriad of different forms.
Arguably the most scientifically sound measure of homophobia was published in October 2018 by the European Journal of Public Health. This report collected and compiled many data points that fit into one of two categories: institutionalized or social homophobia. Institutionalized homophobia involved the presence and level of enforcement of laws that criminalize or protect same-sex relationships and activities. By comparison, social homophobia tracked the acceptance, tolerance, violence against, and justifiability of homosexuality within society as a whole.
Within this framework, researchers analyzed data from a wide range of sources, such as the Pew Research Center, the World Justice Project, Gallup World Poll, the IMF World Population Outlook, and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Population Division. This data was then compiled into a single number between 0.000 (absolute acceptance) and 1.000 (complete homophobia), titled the Homophobic Climate Index (HCI).
|Rank||Country||HCI 2017||Rank||Country||HCI 2017|
Another respected measure of global homophobia was conceived by the travel website Asher & Lyric, which compiled nearly a dozen data metrics from a myriad of sources to create the LGBTQ+ Travel Safety Index. This index tracks country-by-country data for factors ranging from the legality of same-sex marriage and protections against LGBTQI+ discrimination to murder rates of transgender individuals and (where applicable) the legal punishment for same-sex relationships. Like the HCI, the LGBTQ+TSI uses statistical mathematics to combine its various data points into a single score, which in 2022 varied from a low of -200 (most homophobic and unsafe) to a high of 383 (safest and least homophobic).
|Rank||Country||TSI 2022||Rank||Country||TSI 2022|
|05||Guyana||-175||15||United Arab Emirates||-134|
Homophobia and general intolerance of LGBTQI+ people takes on extreme forms in some countries. In a small handful of countries, an individual can be put to death for practicing their homosexuality. Each of countries is Muslim-ruled and has a legal system heavily influenced by Sharia law, which does not explicitly mention same-sex relations, but which some Muslims believe can be interpreted as prohibiting same-sex interactions.
Most LGBTQI+ individuals in this Taliban-ruled country keep their sexuality and gender identity secret out of fear of being harrassed, persecuted, subjected to violence, or executed. Because the ban on homosexuality is rooted in a strict interpretation of Muslim religious law, advocating for LGBTQI+ causes or even discussing the issue is forbidden, which impedes progress.
Brunei passed a new penal code in April 2019, which confirmed that the penalty for LGBTQI+ activity was death by stoning. However, after much international push-back, the Sultan announced that the government would not seek to enforce that portion of the law. However, the law was not amended to remove the death penalty. Moreover, while the moratorium on the death penalty remains in place as of late 2022, the alternative punishment of one year in prison or 100 lashes for men (women are subject to any two of 10 years in prison, 40 lashes, or a hefty fine) is also considered a violation of human rights. The 2022 Travel Safety Index declared Brunei to be the most dangerous country in the world for LGBTQI+ tourists.
As in many countries ruled by Sharia law, any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is forbidden in Iran. People found guilty of same-sex intercourse suffer punishments ranging from 31 lashes (for same-sex interactions that fall short of intercourse) to 100 lashes to the death penalty. However, gender reassignment surgery is widely accepted and partially state-funded, which has made Iran one of the world's leaders in gender-reassignment surgeries.
Like many LGBTQI+-unfriendly countries, Mauritania features asymmetrical penalties for same-sex activity. Women who have sex with one another face possible fines and prison terms ranging from three months to two years. Men who engage in same-sex relations, by comparison, can be put to death by stoning. However, the law seems to go largely unenforced and it is believed that no LGBTQI+ person has been sentenced to death for their sexuality since at least 1986.
Same-sex acts can be given the death penalty in Nigeria's Muslim-ruled northern states (though some will give women up to 50 lashes instead) and can lead to 14 years in prison in the mostly Christian southern states. Same-sex PDA is forbidden, as is any conversation centered around LGBTQI+ rights and issues. Nigeria was designated as the second-most-dangerous travel destination in the world for LGBTQI+ people by the 2022 Travel Safety Index.
While current punishments for homosexual activity in Pakistan stop short of the death penalty, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom points out that the country's Hadood Ordinances, which were implemented to bring the country's legal system more in-line with Sharia law, could be interpreted as calling for the death penalty for LGBTQI+ activities.
While there have been no known executions for homosexuality in Qatar, the death penalty remains a legal possibility for Muslims. Homosexuality and cross-dressing are viewed quite negatively by Qatari society and the government neither recognizes same-sex marriages nor allows LGBTQI+ advocacy. The website Human Rights Watch has reported that police in Qatar are known to arrest and abuse members of the LBGTQI+ community.
The fourth-most-dangerous destination for LGBTQI+ travelers, Saudi Arabia punishes homosexual activity with sentences that could include public whippings, life in prison, deportation, chemical castration, and death. Illegal same-sex activities include transgendered relations, cross-dressing, and same-sex partnerships or marriage. Nor is hostility toward LGBTQI+ individuals limited to the legal system, as reports exist of the general public inflicting violence upon LGBTQI+ people.
Homosexual activity in this war-torn country can result in the death penalty in the region of Jubaland, as well as areas controlled by terrorist al-Shabab forces. The government is known to actively prosecute LGBTQI+-related offenses. Furthermore, the Somali people are reported to be largely unsympathetic to LGBTQI+ individuals and rights, which often results in discrimination and violence from the private community as well.
Much like the United States, each emirate in this Middle Eastern country has its own laws regarding homosexuality and the treatment of LGBTQI+ people. However, emirates including Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi are known to be quite intolerant. Moreover, amendments to national law in November 2021 introduced harsh penalties for actions such as sodomy, extramarital sex, cross-dressing, as well as vaguely defined offenses such as acts which "offend the modesty and public morals" or "incite a life of sin." While the death penalty is not known to have been invoked in recent years, the legal possibility remains.
Another country divided by civil war, Yemen is believed to have never adminstered the death penalty as punishment for LGBTQI+ activity. However, current Yemeni law allows for the death penalty for married men convicted of homosexual activity, alongside lesser-but-still-severe punishments including imprisonment and up to 100 lashes for unmarried people.
At least two women or at least two men who engage sexually with one another could receive as much as a three-year prison sentence. For imitating someone of the opposite sex, the government could impose a one-year jail sentence. This country’s laws forbid LGBTQ+ organizations from visiting. It’s labeled the “5th worst” risky place to travel and one of the most homophobic countries.
Sudan is currently the country that is most homophobic toward its citizens, but it is dangerous for LGBTQI+ people to even visit the country of Brunei.