WASHINGTON, December 22, 2013 — A survey of sex laws around the world finds Uganda now in the lead for the most draconian, Canada perhaps at the forefront of liberalism, and the United States trending toward Canada’s example.
Canada’s Supreme Court last week struck down the country’s anti-prostitution laws. Prostitutes and brothel owners hailed the decision, saying previous law made their work more dangerous. Three activities once prohibited are now legal: (1) making a living as a prostitute; (2) street soliciting; and (3) keeping a brothel.
The ruling takes effect in one year, giving Parliament time to enact legislation to regulate the profession. Conservative officials and religious leaders vowed to fight to keep the old law in place.
In 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. The 2005 law followed numerous prior court decisions that had legalized same-sex marriage in almost all provinces and one of three territories. Since 1999, Canadian same-sex couples have enjoyed most benefits normally provided to opposite-sex married couples.
Uganda could be the top candidate for the sex-law hall of shame. Although homosexuality was already illegal there, in 2009 a bill was introduced imposing the death penalty for certain acts of homosexuality. Backlash and threats from across Europe resulted in shelving the bill.
Now Uganda has passed the bill, albeit slightly modified. “Aggravated homosexuality,” which includes acts where someone is infected with HIV, “serial” offenses, and sex with minors or the disabled can land the “criminal” in jail for life. The HIV provision even criminalizes consensual and protected sex.
Ugandan lawmakers believe their new law differentiates their society from Western countries’ lifestyles where homosexuality is destroying family units.
Civil rights advocates have called this bill “the worst in the world.”
The Ugandan president has 30 days to sign the bill for it to become law. President Yoweri Museveni has been disparaging of gays, but recently has indicated he is only opposed to gays who appear to “promote” themselves.
Tanzania passed a law in 2004 making homosexuality illegal. Men who are convicted can serve up to 25 years in jail, and women up to seven years.
Britain made same-sex marriage legal on July 12, 2013. Queen Elizabeth II’s royal stamp of approval cleared the way for the first same-sex weddings next summer. Gay couples in England and Wales may marry in both civil and religious ceremonies.
In 1967, in England and Wales, homosexual acts between consenting men not in the military or police were decriminalized.
India’s top court reinstated a 153-year-old law banning gay sex last week, reversing a 2009 lower court ruling that made gay sex legal. The 2009 ruling provided that the anti-gay law violated constitutional guarantees of equality, privacy and freedom of expression.
The Indian Supreme Court said the lower court’s ruling was improper and that it was up to the Parliament to change the law. Government officials have asked the Court to review its order because it violates the principle of equality.
Same-sex marriage in India is now once again “an unnatural offense” punishable by up to ten years in jail. The law was not enforced, but was, and now will be again used primarily by police to bully and intimidate gay men and women.
Asian countries have more restrictive views on homosexuality than Western nations. In China, gay sex is not a crime, but arrests take place under not-so-well defined laws denoting activities such as “licentiousness.”
In 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex marriage.
Iceland’s Prime Minister wed her longtime partner in 2010 under a law passed that day allowing same-sex marriage.
In Mexico City, Mexico, gays have been able to marry since 2010.
Same-sex Swedish couples had “partnership” rights beginning in the 1990s. They were allowed to adopt children beginning in 2002, and they have been able to marry either by civil ceremony or religious ceremony since 2009. The law allows individual churches to decline to perform same-sex weddings.
There is no ruling covering wedding cake bakers in Sweden.
In 2008, Norway’s gay couples were granted license to marry and adopt children, replacing a 1993 law authorizing “partnership.” Norway’s gay couples were given the right to marry, adopt children, and undergo artificial insemination in 2009.
In 2007, Italy approved “legal rights” for unmarried gay couples.
Hungary has allowed gay couples to wed if they are 18 or older since 2009.
In October, hundreds of gay rights activists held a candle-lit vigil in Rome calling for a law against homophobia after a teen threw himself off of an 11-story building there. This suicide was the city’s third gay-youth suicide in 2013.
Amnesty International has lobbied for Italy to pass laws outlawing hate crimes against sexual orientation. Catholic figures have resisted, saying that such laws might curtail freedom of speech.
In 2006, South Africa passed a law giving same-sex couples the right to marry, making it the first African country to do so.
Israel does not have a same-sex right to marry law, but it recognizes those unions performed elsewhere. Same-sex activity was legalized in 1988. Violations of the law prior to that were not enforced after 1963, following a court ruling there.
New Zealand has allowed gay couples to marry since 2004.
Denmark was the first country to authorize same-sex unions, in 1989.
The United States Supreme Court made gay marriage legal federally this year. In 33 states, though, you cannot file as “married” on your state tax returns.
Seventeen states allow same-sex marriage. In six states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Mexico) gays can marry because their state’s highest court said yes. In three states (Maine, Maryland and Washington) gay couples’ fellow citizens approved the law by popular vote. In eight states (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) gays can marry thanks to their state legislatures.
Washington, D.C. legalized same-sex marriage in 2010.
Prostitution is against the law in most places in the United States, though it is mostly not prosecuted where it is illegal. Sexting and groping by politicians is frowned upon.
Good will toward men, and women, and peace to all.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.