From Bhutan to Botswana, LGBTQ rights have risen in unexpected places in 2021 | World | Latest news and insights from around the world | DW

All over the world, homosexuals have gained many protections thanks to changes in laws and standards surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage, discrimination and equal rights. Global acceptance of the LGBTQ community, an acronym meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning, is on the rise, according to the US-based Pew Research Center.

But that doesn’t mean that the stigma, discrimination and homophobic attacks have ended. Places like Poland and Hungary have seen a reversal of hard-won progress, with conservative governments stoking anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the name of family values. In many countries, LGBTQ communities have been disproportionately affected by a global decline in democracy and human rights and by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But despite setbacks and abuse, several parts of the world have rekindled hope by taking action this year to advance the rights of the LGBTQ community. Here’s a preview.


The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan became the last Asian nation to decriminalize homosexuality this year. In February, King Druk Gyalpo approved a law passed by lawmakers, amending a line in Bhutan’s penal code that criminalized “sodomy or other sexual behavior contrary to the order of nature”, previously treated as a reference to gay sex.

Campaigners hailed the move in a country where stigma and discrimination are rife and gay people are commonly blackmailed. Many say the country must now start the hard work of tackling homophobia.

Nazrul Islam Ritu, Bangladesh’s first transgender mayor, hopes his rise to power will strengthen the country’s “Hijra” community

Bangladesh elected its first transgender mayor in 2021. Nazrul Islam Ritu, who is the “third sex,” the official designation for transgender people in the Muslim-majority nation, defeated his rival in a landslide election in November for become mayor of the small rural town of Trilochanpur in western Bangladesh, where she was born.

Speaking to local media, she said her victory showed a growing acceptance of the “Hijra” community, an umbrella term for those who were assigned male at birth but do not define themselves as male or female. wife. Bangladesh is home to around 1.5 million transgender people, who face discrimination and violence and are often forced to survive by begging or working in the sex trade.

Another Himalayan country, Nepal, this year introduced a third gender category for the first time in its census. Respondents have the option of choosing “other” as their gender, alongside men and women. Rights activists said the LGBTQ community – estimated at 90,000 people – still faces discrimination, especially in the areas of employment, health and education, and a lack of data, this which hindered access to benefits. It is hoped that the data collected through the census will help the community to assert its rights.

North America

The United States has seen this year a restoration of rights related to sexual orientation and gender identity that were revoked by the previous Trump administration. US President Joe Biden has ended the ban on service to transgender people in the military, rescinded a policy that previously allowed healthcare companies to deny coverage to gay and transgender people, and signed an executive order s ‘pledging to use US diplomacy and US foreign aid to promote and protect LGBTQ rights internationally.

The White House also announced the appointment of Jessica Stern as the United States’ Special Envoy for Global LGBTQ Issues, filling a post left vacant by the Trump administration.

 Pete Buttigieg addresses the press

Pete Buttigieg made history as the first openly gay cabinet member to be confirmed by the US Senate

In February, former 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg became the first openly gay cabinet member confirmed by the US Senate. “As I was in this audience to answer senators’ questions, you could see my husband, Chasten, over my shoulder, and this is something that has never happened before for a Cabinet candidate.” Buttigieg said in an interview with ABC’s. View. “My hope is that, in turn, it will be easier for the next person to show up, so that it is never even seen as a hindrance by a future generation.”

Buttigieg, who is transport secretary at Biden’s cabinet, caused a stir in October by going on parental leave for several weeks after he and her husband adopted twins.

Earlier this month, Canada joined a growing push around the world to ban conversion therapy by passing a bill officially banning it. This widely discredited practice aims to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Tactics can range from talk and behavior therapy to medical treatment.

Critics have said conversion therapy harms its victims and is based on the false premise that sexual orientation and gender identity can, or should, be “cured.” Canadian law makes it a criminal offense to have someone undergo conversion therapy and to promote or advertise the practice. Activists in Canada hailed it as a historic moment.


Switzerland became one of the last Western European countries to approve same-sex marriage in September, with nearly two-thirds of voters supporting it in a referendum. The change in law will allow same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies and give them the same rights as other married couples. Foreign spouses will become eligible to apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure, and same-sex couples will be allowed to adopt jointly.

“Today reflects the change in mentality over the past 20 years,” Olga Baranova, spokesperson for the ‘Yes Campaign’, told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “It really is a reflection of a very broad and very important acceptance of LGBT people in society.”

People are partying in a bar

Switzerland was one of the last refusals in Western Europe to allow same-sex marriage

In June, France passed a law expanding access to its free fertility treatments, such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), to women in couples and single women. The procedure was previously reserved for infertile heterosexual couples, forcing lesbian couples and single women to buy overseas for IVF treatment.

While conservative groups have said the bill will lead to an increase in the number of “fatherless” children, advocates say the law finally puts France on the same footing as some of its European neighbors. “The most important thing in this legislation is that it allows all women to choose for themselves whether they want to have a child and how they want to have it”, Bénédicte Blanchet who works for Mam’en Solo, a organization that advocates for the rights of single mothers in France, said DW at the time. “It’s about respecting their individual choice.”


Botswana’s appeals court upheld in November a 2019 ruling decriminalizing same-sex relationships, which was hailed as a major victory for gay rights activists on the continent. Prior to the 2019 High Court ruling, engaging in same-sex sex in Botswana was punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The bench of five judges unanimously ruled that criminalizing same-sex relationships violates the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality. Campaigners hope the move will serve as an example for other African nations. Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries, with death sentences in some places.

In February, a new penal code entered into force in Angola after parliament passed it in 2019 and the president enacted it in November 2020. The new penal code overturns a 133-year passage banning same-sex relationships, established when the South West African nation was still a Portuguese colony. It also contains comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.

Even though LGBT people have not been prosecuted in recent decades, same-sex relationships were still widely regarded as taboo by the Angolan conservative government, largely due to the powerful influence of the Catholic Church. .

South America

Earlier this month, Chile passed a landmark bill granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. The country legalized same-sex civil unions in 2015 and has been eagerly awaiting legalization of same-sex marriage since then-President Michelle Bachelet sent a bill to Congress in 2017.

Chile’s new law will allow same-sex parents to have parental rights over the biological or adopted children of a spouse and will create standard rules on inheritance and other financial matters. Chile joins only a handful of predominantly Catholic South American nations with similar laws. They include Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador.

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