For many centuries homosexuality had been denounced, criminalized, and victimized around the globe. Now, being celebrated as a symbol of identity and right over sexuality, the pride march held every June giving a face to the LGBTQ community has a long history of oppression and sufferings.
Marking the 51st anniversary of the first pride marches officially knowns as the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, the pride month is being celebrated throughout the world. With municipal mayors marching alongside drag queens in many major American cities, the pride has gone mainstream. But, in many other places, pride is still celebrated behind closed doors, as millions of homosexual people struggle in having their rights recognized by the government and society.
Why Do Some Countries Prosecutes LGBTQ People?
The Colonial times brings a lot of miserable memories back for most of the former colonial countries. When looked at some of the most regressive criminal codes imposed during the British rule, there cannot be a better example than the British Penal Code also popular as Section 377. The homophobic law is one of the key reasons why being gay is criminalized in more than 30 former British colonies.
The 1530 Buggery Act enacted during the reign of King Henry VIII banned homosexuality and made gay sex punishable by death, but what’s worth considering is that the law didn’t mention lesbianism. The colonial rulers then keenly enforced this idea of morality in all of the ruling countries.
Though for centuries the UK committed revolting acts against the gay community; for example forcing gay people to undergo chemical castration, or throwing people behind the bars on the ground of being gay, the Sexual Offences Act, 1967 decriminalized homosexuality in England and Wales. By 1982, the Buggery act was abolished in the rest of the UK, but the laws forbidding homosexuality remain penal codes of many of the former colonies.
The Modern-Day Implications The Anti-Homosexual Laws
The hatred and homophobia were exported to the colonized countries. These laws didn’t just gather dust on the stature books, they are still being used against the LGBTQ community to this very day. As a colonial legacy countries like Pakistan, Kenney, Ghana, Barbados, Singapore, etc still practice a lawful ban against homosexuality.
According to official government figures, over 600 people were prosecuted in Kenya from 2010 to 2014 under the country’s anti-gay laws. Malawi sentenced two gay men to 14-years of hard labor after being pronounced guilty of gross indecency and unnatural acts. During passing the guilty sentence against the gay couple, the judge said that they are protecting the country from “people like you”.
In 2018, after a raid on a Malaysian gay club, 20 men were charged with “illicit behavior”. Metaphorically, institutional homophobia runs much deeper in the former-colonial countries than in Great Britain today. In the March of 2020, despite numerous efforts by the country’s LGBTQ activists, Singapore’s court ruled in the favour of keeping homosexuality illegal.
Even in the 21st century, many are living in the grave threat of violence after exposing their LGBTQ identity, with gay people being lynched by angry mobs in many of the countries ruling against homosexuality.
The Pride March: The March of Solidarity
The past few decades witnessed many revolutionary queer activists standing up against regressive anti-queer laws, forcing the government to uplift the homophobic laws. The pride march, first held in New York City on June 28 1970 has grown to become the biggest global celebration of homosexuality and an international symbol of embracing the LGBTQ community and celebration.
Atilio Deana, Uruguay expressing his happiness in a BBC interview said, “For a little country like us, with 3.5 million people, it gathers about 150,000 people. It’s a big parade – everybody actually parades, it’s not like you stay in the sides of the street and look at the people – everybody participates.”
Today, many queer people are enjoying their rights, but they are still aware of its fragility. As thousands marched the pride in solidarity in different parts of the world, thousands also had to keep the march a secret due to the deep-rooted homophobia.
Pride march, the once risky gathering has become an annual festival in most of the cities. But for many, along with being a chance of self-expression, pride is an accomplishment fuelled by sacrifices done in the past.
To date, out of 195 countries, only 28 nations lawfully recognize same-sex marriage while 34 others identify the same-sex couple. According to a study, by December 2020, 81 countries around the globe have enforced laws discriminating against people in the workplace solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, while when looked at 20 years back, only 15 countries had such discriminatory laws.
Thanks to the consistent work of campaigners and LGBTQ activists, many countries have abolished bills and laws criminalizing homosexuality, but still, a lot is yet to change.