Nigeria: Nigeria is the most homophobic country in the world, according to a 2013 poll, which found 97 percent of citizens think society should not accept homosexuality. The laws reflect that: Same-sex couples face up to 14 years in prison and even public displays of same-sex affection are illegal.
Uganda: The spotlight has been focused on Kampala recently for its anti-LGBT policies. A law passed this week makes homosexuality punishable by up to life in prison, gay rights activists have been murdered, and gay citizens are widely discriminated against.
Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe has made a crusade out of homophobia – with widespread public approval. Last year, Mugabe threatened to behead gay Zimbabweans and described them as “filth.”
Saudi Arabia: Basing its law, it says, on a strict interpretation of Islamic law, the current Saudi regime has made gay sex punishable by death by the lash. But according to some reports from inside the Kingdom, that doesn’t mean homosexuality isn’t common.
India: Thought of as a highly tolerant society, it came as a surprise earlier this year when the country’s highest court reinstated a colonial-era law criminalizing gay sex. But the decision has been met with protests and the court’s decision is being challenged.
Honduras: There have been a spate of anti-LGBT hate crimes here in recent years. More than 80 LGBT people have been killed in anti-LGBT hate crimes since 2009 and LGBT-rights activist say they are shunned by their families and communities.
Jamaica: Sex between men is illegal, hate crimes are alarmingly common and the government seems reluctant to protect gays from violence. Senegal One of the most anti-gay countries in the world, according to a 2013 Pew poll, which found 96 percent of Senegalese think society should not accept homosexuality, only surpassed by Nigeria at 97 percent. Gay sex is illegal and discrimination is commonplace.
Afghanistan: It may no longer be under the rule of the Taliban (at least in much of the country), but harsh views toward homosexuality still remain. It’s still news when an Afghan comes out as gay, even from Toronto. Yet its male homosexual culture is widespread but rarely commented on.
Iran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s last president, famously told Americans: “We don’t have homosexuals in our country like you do.” His successor, Hassan Rouhani, elected last June, hasn’t made gay rights – or anti-gay legislation – a priority, but it’s already on the books. Homosexuality is illegal in Iran and can even be punishable by death in certain cases.
Lithuania: The Baltic state’s parliament is considering a law similar to Russia’s notorious anti-gay anti-propaganda law. And while homosexuality isn’t illegal, it has many opponents. Last year’s second-ever gay pride parade was interrupted by homophobic protesters.
Sudan: Homosexuality is punishable by death and even attempts at arranging a homosexual act can lead to a prison sentence. The good news is that there have been stirrings in recent years of a pro-LGBT rights movement.
The United States: We have undoubtedly made great strides in LGBT rights in recent years, from same-sex marriage to equality in the military. But Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and several other states have laws on the books that resemble Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws. And anti-LGBT hate crimes remain frighteningly common, especially against transgender people.
Photo: Gay rights activists hold placards during a protest against a verdict by the Supreme Court in New Delhi December 15, 2013. (Photo credit: Adnan Abid/Reuters)
We sent a reporter to Uganda for this week’s Newsweek and asked he trail along with a crew of Ugandan soldiers hunting for Joseph Kony. Here’s his story. And here’s how it starts:
Maj. Richard Kidega threaded his way through a thicket of sweet black trees and thorny underbrush when suddenly he drew to a halt. A young Ugandan soldier in front had raised a clenched fist: the sign to stop. With their AK-47s raised, Kidega and his men silently scanned the jungle for any signs of the enemy, such as fresh tracks or trampled brush. Hanging vines clogged the path. Dry leaves masked deep holes. The gully was an attractive place for an ambush. “It’s places just like this where the LRA likes to hide,” Kidega whispered, as the hunt for Joseph Kony, rebel leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, slowly moved ahead.
This inhospitable swath of jungle in the Central African Republic is ground zero in the search for Kony’s LRA. On any given day, Ugandan soldiers, aided by U.S. special forces, comb through the forests, looking for one of the most elusive war criminals in history, a man who has kidnapped thousands of children, turning boys into hardened killers and girls into sex slaves. It is estimated that the LRA has killed upwards of 70,000 civilians, kidnapped some 40,000 children, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people in four countries.
The movement, which has now descended into butchery, rape, and even cannibalism, began in 1986 as a popular insurrection against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Initially many in northern Uganda supported the rebellion against Museveni, whose army ruthlessly persecuted the Acholi people in the north. Eventually, however, the warlord’s insurgency lost steam, and Kony turned on his own people, accusing them of sinning against God. As punishment, Kony and his commanders have cut off the lips, noses, and ears of victims; he has forced abducted children to murder their own families to ensure loyalty; and he has killed those who disobeyed orders.
The hunt for Kony, known as Operation Lightning Thunder, now takes place across four countries and involves several thousand troops, at least 100 of them American. The warlord got international attention after a 30-minute video on him produced by the American NGO Invisible Children became a viral YouTube phenomenon last month, drawing more than 87.5 million views. It sparked outrage—and renewed pledges to bring Kony to justice. Later this month, the African Union will bring another 5,000 troops from the armies of South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Congo to help the Ugandans in their hunt, now in its 25th year.