The World’s Worst Places to Be Gay

If you’re going to go and love someone the same gender as you, just be sure not to do it in the red countries.
Nov 6, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

The World's Worst Places to be Gay

It’s not easy being gay, especially in the 79 or so countries where it’s illegal.

Around the world, a wide range of laws dictate whether gay people can live openly or whether they must exist underground, deny their desires, or hide their identity for fear of persecution. Some of these laws put lives in danger—as in some Nigerian states, where people found guilty of homosexuality can be stoned to death. Other countries impose discriminatory restrictions on people’s ability to live as fully as they might like—as in Chile, where same-sex couples have legal recognition but are barred from adopting children.

This map shows the danger spots around the world for people who are not heterosexual. While places such as Demark and Iceland—where those in same-sex relationships can get married, adopt children, and serve openly in the military—look like paradise, other countries are a living hell for some of their citizens.

In Cameroon, where, as in the other countries marked red on the map, homosexuality is illegal, police in October raided a house where men were allegedly having gay sex. Neighbors had told police “effeminate men” frequented the home, and the cops broke through the door, arrested seven people, and charged them with homosexuality, prostitution, and pimping. The officer in charge of the case described them as “people who are controlled by an evil spirit.”

Being gay in Russia (and the other countries marked yellow on the map) isn’t against the law, but gays and lesbians can be arrested for “promoting homosexuality” or spreading “gay propaganda” to minors. This often means activists are arrested while speaking out in favor of gay rights. Officials have tried but failed to prosecute performers from outside Russia, such as Lady Gaga and Madonna, for promoting LGBT equality at their concerts. Before openly gay heavy metal singer Rob Halford performed in St. Petersburg, the mayor’s office told him not to make any references to gay rights.

In Alabama, as in other parts of the United States, gay marriage is illegal. Cari Searcyand Kim McKeand married in 2008, in California. Because they wed out of state Searcy and McKeand don’t receive the same tax benefits as married couples, and Searcy can’t be named guardian of McKeand’s son. If he’s in the hospital while still a minor and McKeand is out of town or deceased, he may just have to comfort himself.

With more U.S. states overturning gay marriage bans almost every week, it’s easy to forget that millions of gay people around the world still live in legal peril under a patchwork of oppressive laws. Some believe that the very advances made in certain countries may fuel homophobic backlash elsewhere.

As Alistair Stewart, assistant director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a U.K.-based LGBT rights organization, told The Guardian, “The struggle for even basic human rights for LGBT people—freedom of association, freedom from violence—becomes harder to achieve when the opponents can point to something like gay marriage…and make the argument that ‘if we give these people even the most basic of human rights, next they’ll be asking to get married in our churches.’ ”