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As SC Debates Same-sex Marriage, Here's A Look At Gay Marriage Rights Around The World

With India's supreme court currently locked in a historic debate around the legalisation of same-sex marriages, looking at the ones that have already done so.

Rest of the World News
| Written By
Anmol Singla
Same-sex marriage

Image: AP

Final arguments are currently being heard by the Indian Supreme Court regarding various petitions seeking to legalise same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ activists are anticipating a favourable judgement while the centre is firmly against gay marriage. The discourse is expected to be a lively one.

Earlier, the petitions related to same-sex marriage were pending before the Delhi and Kerala High Courts. A senior advocate had requested that these pleas be transferred from the HCs to the Supreme Court for direct consideration. The transfer was granted by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud.

If the Supreme Court rules in favour of same-sex marriage, this could be the first significant step towards the protection of LGBTQ+ rights since the court's landmark decision in 2018 to read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Currently, Taiwan is the only country in Asia that recognises same-sex marriages. However, there is mounting pressure for reforms in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.

Here are some key facts about same-sex marriage worldwide:

Netherlands sets the example

In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry and have their union recognized by the government. This historic decision was made following years of activism and advocacy by LGBTQ+ groups and individuals, and it paved the way for other countries to follow suit. Since then, several other countries have legalised same-sex marriage, while others have taken steps to provide legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples.

Which nations have legalised same-sex marriage?

As of March 2023, Same-sex marriage is legal in 33 nations that are also members of the United Nations (UN):

  1. Andorra
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Austria
  5. Belgium
  6. Brazil
  7. Britain
  8. Canada
  9. Chile
  10. Colombia
  11. Costa Rica
  12. Cuba
  13. Denmark
  14. Ecuador
  15. Finland
  16. France
  17. Germany
  18. Iceland
  19. Ireland
  20. Luxembourg
  21. Malta
  22. Mexico
  23. the Netherlands
  24. New Zealand
  25. Norway
  26. Portugal
  27. Slovenia
  28. South Africa
  29. Spain
  30. Sweden
  31. Switzerland
  32. Uruguay and
  33. the United States

There are currently 34 United Nations member states that offer some form of civil partnership or registered partnership for same-sex couples. In more recent developments, Andorra legalised same-sex marriage in 2023, joining a growing list of countries that have extended marriage rights to LGBTQ+ individuals. Last year, Mexico, Cuba, and Slovenia also made strides towards LGBTQ+ equality by approving same-sex marriage.

Taiwan stands alone in Asia

In 2019, Taiwan made history by becoming the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The landmark decision came after years of advocacy and activism by LGBTQ+ groups and allies, and it was seen as a significant step towards greater equality and acceptance in the region.

In November 2018, a referendum was held to decide whether same-sex marriage should be legalized under a separate law, rather than being included in the existing marriage laws. Despite opposition from conservative groups, a majority of voters supported the proposal, paving the way for the government to draft a new law legalizing same-sex marriage.

Africa has a long way to go

Same-sex marriage is a highly controversial topic in Africa, where many countries criminalise same-sex relationships and impose harsh penalties such as imprisonment or even the death penalty. Only South Africa currently allows same-sex marriage on the continent. The issue is often deeply intertwined with religious beliefs and values and is fiercely debated by religious groups.

In March of this year, Uganda's parliament passed a bill that criminalizes identifying as LGBTQ+, going further than many neighbouring African countries which already outlaw same-sex relationships and marriages. The bill is widely considered to be one of the harshest pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in Africa. While same-sex relationships are already illegal in Uganda, this new law introduces a range of additional criminal offences.

Perhaps most notably, the bill makes it illegal to identify as LGBTQ+ in any way, effectively erasing the existence and rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. Furthermore, the law places an obligation on friends, family members, and members of the community to report any individuals suspected of being in same-sex relationships to the authorities, further intensifying the persecution and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in Uganda.

In 2022, the United Methodist Church saw a division between conservatives and progressives over the issue of same-sex marriage, with some conservatives breaking away from the church as a result. Similarly, the Anglican Church faced a major decision in 2023 when it upheld a ban on same-sex marriage, but also indicated that it would not penalize churches that choose to ignore the ruling. These developments reflect the ongoing debate and struggle over LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance in Africa and around the world

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