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Nauru Updates Criminal Code; Decriminalizes Same-Sex Activity

by Saurav Jung Thapa May 31, 2016

Nauru, a small island state in the Pacific Ocean and the world’s third smallest country by size, is the latest country to decriminalize same-sex relations by updating its criminal code. This remarkable development follows on the heels of a similar move in the Indian Ocean island state of Seychelles earlier this month.

Nauru’s unicameral parliament updated the existing Criminal Code of 1899, which criminalized same-sex relations by up to 14 years in prison, based on Australian colonial-era laws.

Despite this positive development, Nauru lacks an LGBT inclusive non-discrimination law and does not have marriage equality.

With the update to Nauru’s criminal code, the number of countries that criminalize LGBTQ people has now dropped from 74 to 73.

“This landmark decision to decriminalize same-sex relations in Nauru is encouraging not only for the local community, but also for the global LGBTQ community,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “As Nauru is the second country to overturn criminalization laws within the year, momentum towards equality continues to build around the globe.”

Six countries have decriminalized same-sex activity since 2011. In July 2015, Mozambique revised its Portuguese colonial-era code that criminalized same-sex sexual activity. Other countries that have decriminalized same-sex activity in recent years are Lesotho and Sao Tome and Principe in 2012, Lebanon and Palau in 2014, and Seychelles earlier this year.

While gradual progress continues to be made, there have also been setbacks. India’s Supreme Court re-criminalized same-sex acts in 2013, overturning a lower court’s 2009 ruling to decriminalize by “reading down” the notorious Section 377, which had been declared unconstitutional.

This decriminalization vote follows the release of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and Logo entertainment’s historic report on global attitudes towards LGBTI people. The report found that 53 percent of respondents say that being LGBTI should not be a crime. This is the first survey showing that a majority of the world’s population supports the decriminalization of same-sex activity.

Saurav Jung Thapa
Saurav Jung Thapa


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