The knight von Hohenberg and his squire, being burned at the stake for sodomy, Zurich 1482 (Zurich Central Library)
The Middle East
An early law against sexual intercourse between men is recorded in Leviticus by the Hebrew people, prescribing the death penalty. A violent law regarding homosexual intercourse is prescribed in the Middle Assyrian Law Codes (1075 BCE), stating: "If a man lay with his neighbor, when they have prosecuted him (and) convicted him, they shall lie with him (and) turn him into a eunuch".
In the account given in Tacitus Germania, the death penalty was reserved for two kinds of capital offenses: military treason or desertion was punished by hanging, and moral infamy (cowardice and homosexuality: ignavos et imbelles at corpore infames); Gordon translates corpore infames as "unnatural prostitutes"; Tacitus refers to male homosexuality, see
David F. Greenberg, The construction of homosexuality, p. 242 f. Scholarship compares the later Germanic concept of Old Norse argr, Langobardic arga, which combines the meanings "effeminate, cowardly, homosexual", see Jaan Puhvel, 'Who were the Hittite hurkilas pesnes?' in: A. Etter (eds.), O-o-pe-ro-si (FS Risch), Walter de Gruyter, 1986, p. 154.
Execution by fire and torture of five homosexual Franciscan monks, Bruges, 26 July 1578
In Republican Rome, the poorly attested Lex Scantinia penalized an adult male for committing a sex crime (stuprum) against an underage male citizen (ingenuus). It is unclear whether the penalty was death or a fine. The law may also have been used to prosecute adult male citizens who willingly took a pathic role in same-sex acts, but prosecutions are rarely recorded and the provisions of the law are vague; as John Boswell has noted, "if there was a law against homosexual relations, no one in Cicero's day knew anything about it." When the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, all male homosexual activity was increasingly repressed, often on pain of death. In 342 CE, the Christian emperors Constantius and Constans declared same-sex marriage to be illegal. Shortly after, in the year 390 CE, emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius I and Arcadius declared homosexual sex to be illegal and those who were guilty of it were condemned to be publicly burned alive. Emperor Justinian I (527–565 CE) made homosexuals a scapegoat for problems such as "famines, earthquakes, and pestilences."
Laws and codes prohibiting homosexual practice were in force in Europe from the fourth to the twentieth centuries, and Muslim countries have had similar laws from the beginnings of Islam in the seventh century up to and including the present day. Abbasid Baghdad, under the Caliph Al-Hadi (785–786 CE), punished homosexuality with death.
During the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of France and the City of Florence also instated the death penalty. In Florence, a young boy named Giovanni di Giovanni (1350–1365?) was castrated and burned between the thighs with a red-hot iron by court order under this law. These punishments continued into the Renaissance, and spread to the Swiss canton of Zürich. Knight Richard von Hohenberg (died 1482) was burned at the stake together with his lover, his young squire, during this time. In France, French writer Jacques Chausson (1618–1661) was also burned alive for attempting to seduce the son of a nobleman.
In 17th century Malta, there was harsh prejudice and laws towards those who were found guilty or speak openly of being involved in same-sex activity. English voyager and author William Lithgow, writing in March 1616, says a Spanish soldier and a Maltese teenage boy were publicly burnt to ashes for confessing to have practiced sodomy together. As a consequence, and fear to similar faith, about a hundred males involved in same-sex prostitution sailed to Sicily the following day. This episode, published abroad by a foreign writer, is the most detailed account of LGBT life during the rule of the Order. It represents that homosexuality was still a taboo, but a widespread practice, an open secret, and LGBT-related information was suppressed.
In England, the Buggery Act of 1534 made sodomy and bestiality punishable by death. This act was replaced in 1828, but sodomy remained punishable by death under the new act until 1861. The last executions were in 1835.
In Nazi Germany, homosexuals were among the groups targeted by the Holocaust (See Persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust). (In 1936, the homosexual Federico García Lorca was executed by right-wing rebels who became Franco's dictatorship in Spain, Hitler's ally.) Neo-Nazis generally oppose homosexuality to the extent of supporting a renewed persecution the way it took place in Nazi Germany. Being homosexual is equated with being unmasculine and the German word ″Schwul″ ('gay') is used by German Neonazis as a curse word.
Worldwide laws regarding same-sex intercourse and freedom of expression and association
| Same-sex intercourse legal|
| Marriage1|| |
| Marriage recognized but not performed1|
| Civil unions1|| |
| Unregistered cohabitation1|
| Same-sex unions not recognized|| |
| Laws restricting freedom of expression and association|
| Same-sex intercourse illegal|
| Unenforced penalty2|| |
| Up to life imprisonment|| |
| Death penalty|
Rings indicate areas where local judges have granted or denied marriages or imposed the death penalty in a jurisdiction where that is not otherwise the law or areas with a case-by-case application. 1Some jurisdictions in this category may currently have other types of partnerships. 2No arrests in the past three years or moratorium on law.
As of August 2016 They are punishable by death in eight countries:
, 72 countries criminalize consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex.
Countries where homosexual acts are criminalized but not punished by death, by region, include:
- Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria (death penalty in some states), Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia (death penalty in some states), South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Aceh, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Gaza Strip under Palestinian Authority
- Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
- Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands
Afghanistan, where such acts remain punishable with fines and a prison sentence, dropped the death penalty after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, who had mandated it from 1996. India criminalized homosexuality until June 2, 2009, when the High Court of Delhi declared section 377 of the Indian Penal Code invalid. India has reinstated its ban on homosexuality on December 11, 2013, making it a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment up to life.
Jamaica has some of the toughest sodomy laws in the world, with homosexual activity carrying a 10-year jail sentence.
International human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemn laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.