Prepared by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR)*

Without qualification or exemption, Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Article 26 of the subsequent International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights reiterates this assertion: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground.” Thus, discrimination, persecution, and violence against persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under international law and, as well, under national law in countries that have internalized these international norms. But progress has been mixed. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) persons still are not afforded protection in fact. Rama Yade, French state secretary for human rights, put it forcefully in a UN debate in 2008. Noting that homosexuality is banned in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least six, she asked: “How can we tolerate the fact that people, are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?” (United Nations 2010; New York Times 2008)

 1 — Number of countries with an openly gay head of state: Iceland, which elected Jóhanna Siguroardóttir as its Prime Minister on March 10, 2009 (Time 2009)

 12 — Number of countries with jurisdictions that have legalized same-sex marriage: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Mexico (in Mexico City Federal District only, but recognized by all Mexican states), the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States (in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont only) (International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersexual Alliance 2010, National Conference of State Legislatures 2011)

14 — Number of countries that punish homosexuality by life imprisonment or death: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Iran, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersexual Alliance 2010)

 25 — Number of men arrested and held for three months without trial by the Syrian government in 2010 because they attended a gay party behind the closed doors of one of their homes; later, following release without trial because of Syrian government international embarrassment, the incident left them exposed to social stigma and violence stemming from adverse publicity in a climate of institutionalized homophobia—Article 520 of the 1949 Syrian penal code prohibiting “carnal relations against the order of nature” ( 2010)

 29 — Number of U.S. states permitting private employers to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation, despite the fact that employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, or country of origin has been illegal for nearly fifty years under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming (Human Rights Campaign 2011, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2009)

 58 — Percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies that provided domestic partner health care benefits for same-sex couples and their children in 2011, up from 40% in 2003—a fact which, when compared to 40% of Fortune 1000 and 83% of Fortune 100 companies providing such benefits in 2011, suggests a trend of greater nondiscriminatory protection the more successful the company (Human Rights Campaign 2009)

 68 — Number of U.N. Member States signatory to a December 18, 2008 letter-statement submitted to, and later circulated for further signature by, the President of the U.N. General Assembly condemning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination as human rights violations (the United States included, as of a March 2009 reversal of prior U.S. policy)—a statement of principle which, though not legally binding, was significant because it marked the first time the General Assembly recognized rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a formerly taboo subject (Amnesty International 2009; Reuters 2009; United Nations 2008)

 85 — Percent of LGBT students who, in a 2009 U.S. National School Climate survey, reported having suffered verbal harassment at school; three-fifths of those surveyed acknowledged feeling unsafe because of their sexual orientation, and nearly one-third acknowledged skipping at least one day of school in the preceding month because of such feeling; also, for the same or similar reasons, as confirmed by other authoritative sources, LGBT youth are found to be between two and three times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers, and approximately eight times more likely to do so than their heterosexual peers when experiencing high levels of family rejection (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009, American Journal of Public Health 2001, Pediatrics 2009)

 97 — Percent of transgender U.S. citizens reporting harassment at work because of their gender identity, while 26 percent claim to have been fired for the same reason—a lack of job stability that contributes to a high rate of poverty among the U.S. transgender population which is twice that of the general population (National Center for Transgender Equality 2010)

 426 — Number of transgendered people murdered worldwide since 2008 as documented by Transgender Europe in 2010, its researchers believing this number to confirm two suspicions: that murders of transgendered people are grossly underreported, and that they are on the rise worldwide (International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission 2010)

 500 — Approximate number of persons participating in Nepal’s first International LGBT pride parade in 2010 (including Bhumika Sherstha, Nepal’s first transgender politician), a promising statistic for a country that decriminalized homosexuality only three years earlier—as may be inferred from Nepal’s stated intention to legalize same-sex marriage and to prohibit, in its forthcoming constitution, discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered, and inter-sexed (LGBTI) individuals ( 2010, Hindustan Times 2010)

 4000 — Number of Irish gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and their supporters who, in Dublin in August 2010, demonstrated against Ireland’s newly passed Civil Partnership Bill which, while granting same-sex couples some property, tax, and social welfare rights, failed to allow them legally the right to adopt a partner’s child, thus “codifying inequality,” according to the protestors—in glaring contrast to legislation in the rest of western Europe which generally leads the world in its recognition of LGBT rights ( 2010)

 14,500 — Minimum number of U.S. military personnel discharged after 1993 because of U.S. military’s recently repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (including more than 750 “mission-critical service members and more than 320 with skills in “important languages”)—a repeal that was favored by 72 percent of U.S. citizens as of November 2010, in part because the DADT policy cost U.S. taxpayers some $363 million over its final ten years and because 92 percent of service members reported no discomfort serving alongside gays and lesbians, an estimated 66,000 of whom serve in the U.S. military presently (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network 2010)

250,000 — Approximate number of children being raised by same-sex couples in the United States in 2000 (exclusive of children of single LGBT parents), with more than 39 percent of same-sex couples having one or more children under age 18 at home (UCLA Williams Project 2005)


Copyright © 2011 by The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR). Prepared by Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and UICHR Senior Scholar Burns H. Weston with the generous assistance of Andrew Boulton, Matthew Hulstein, Laura Lunn, Michael Judd, Chelsea Moore, Denise Patters, Sarah Tofflemire, and Carolyn Warner, students and former students at the UI College of Law. For further information on human rights generally, please visit the UICHR web site.