10 maps show how different LGBTQ rights are around the world

  • On Wednesday, Brunei instituted Sharia Law, making sodomy a capital offence.
  • INSIDER created a series of maps to visualise how gay rights vary around the world.
  • Despite same-sex marriage being legal in the US, homosexuality is still illegal in 35% of countries in the United Nations.

On Wednesday, the Sultan of Brunei brought Sharia Law to the small, oil-rich country on the north side of the island Borneo.

Those convicted of sodomy now stand the chance of being stoned to death. The law also applies to those caught cheating on their spouses.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, 72, first announced the new law, which is based off of interpretations of the Quran and Islamic teachings, in 2013, but has been slowing rolling it out. The new laws governing punishments for gay sex officially went into effect this week.

Brunei becomes the first southeast Asian country to institute Sharia Law. It is now among 12 countries in the world where gay sex can be punished with execution.

It’s also an example of just how much of an up-hill battle LGBTQ rights continue to be around the world. For example, gay sex is still illegal in 35% of countries in the United Nations, according to statistics released this year by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

To understand how LGBTQ rights vary around the world, INSIDER created a set of maps that visualise the issue.

The results show that while homosexuality is no longer outlawed in the majority of the world, there’s still a long way to go in terms of acceptance and equality for LGBTQ people.


Brunei is the first nation to institute Sharia Law in southeast Asia.

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Sharia Law varies from country to country. Technically 11 other countries practice Shariah Law, but they vary in how they punish those convicted of sodomy. In Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, sodomy carries the possibility of the death penalty, but offenders are more likely to see jail time. The death penalty is carried out more frequently in such cases in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.


Religion is an un-ignorable factor in the maps. While the majority of the world has legalised homosexuality, the countries where it is still outlawed are concentrated in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa — areas with majority-Muslim nations.

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According to the Associated Press, “Islamic scholars overwhelmingly teach that same-gender sex is a sin.”

The Quran teaches that homosexuality should be punished but doesn’t detail how. The Prophet Muhammad was reportedly more explicit that homosexuals should be killed in some of his teachings. That’s why some countries that implement Sharia law make homosexuality a capital crime.


Following Trump’s transgender military ban, just 19 countries in the world allow people with gender dysphoria to serve in the military.

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The Netherlands was the first country to allow transgender people to enter the military in 1974, according to CNN. Thailand is one of the more recent countries to accept transgender soldiers, but they’re only allowed to serve in a administrative capacity.


In some countries where homosexuality is legal, there are still several laws in place that make living openly difficult.

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In Russia for example, a federal law passed in 2013 makes it illegal to distribute “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The country also makes it difficult for sexual orientation-related non-governmental organisations to operate in the country.

Under the 2012 foreign agent law, all organisations that receive any sort of funding from abroad must register as a foreign agent or else be fined.

Maximum, an organisation that operates in the country to help the LGBT community, was fined about 300,000 rubles (about $US4,500) in 2015 for refusing to heed the law because they thought it undermined the work that their employees do.


Only about 13% of UN member countries have legalised gay marriage.

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A few others – including Peru, Italy, and Greece – have only legalised civil unions for same-sex partners so far.


Austria was the most recent country to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2019. The first country to do so was the Netherlands, in 2001.

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Sources: ILGA, Fortune


Though it’s too small to show up on the map, the Mediterranean island nation of Malta has also banned conversion therapies, in addition to Brazil and Ecuador.

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Source: ILGA


Just 5% of UN member states have written it into their constitutions that sexual orientation-based discrimination is not allowed.

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Source: ILGA


More countries have taken strides when it comes to tackling sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace.

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Source: ILGA


But same-sex couples largely aren’t allowed to adopt outside of the Americas and Europe.

Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are exceptions to the rule.

Joint adoption means a same-sex couple can adopt a child together. Second-parent adoption means that one member of a same-sex couple can adopt their partner’s child (such as when one member of a lesbian couple gives birth).

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