FACT CHECK: Is Homosexuality Illegal In More Than 70 Countries?

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

Fox News’ Jesse Watters claimed Monday that “there are 70-some-odd countries that criminalize homosexuality.”

Verdict: True

More than 70 countries have laws on the books that criminalize homosexual activity.

Fact Check:

Watters, a co-host of “The Five” on Fox News, was discussing the media coverage of President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Some have criticized Trump for speaking fondly of Kim, the dictator of a country with a poor human rights record.

“Leading up to his upcoming meeting, Trump is lavishly praising Kim Jong Un again,” tweeted Adam Klasfeld, a reporter for Courthouse News. “Time to reread the UN human rights report detailing the atrocities of North Korea’s totalitarian prison state.”

Kim’s regime has been accused of human rights violations by groups like Human Rights Watch, which says that “under the rule of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries.”

“You got to address the human rights abuses,” Watters said Monday. “You can’t just ignore that. But it is possible to pursue the external threats which are nuclear weapons, separating that from the internal injustices within the country. That is a longer pace. There are 70-some-odd countries that criminalize homosexuality. We still deal with them. So you got to – you can deal with this thing separately, the external threat, the internal injustice.”

Free & Equal, a U.N. human rights campaign, says that “more than a third of the world’s countries criminalize consensual, loving same-sex relationships, entrenching prejudice and putting millions of people at risk of blackmail, arrest and imprisonment.”

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) publishes an annual “State-Sponsored Homophobia” report. ILGA found that as of May 2017, 72 states around the world criminalize same-sex activity. In over half of those, 45, those laws apply to women as well as men.

While homosexuality is still taboo in North Korea and same-sex marriage is not legal, homosexuality is not a crime per the written criminal code. According to one news outlet, “North Korean propaganda has referred to homosexuality as something foreign and un-Korean, a product of western imperialism and vice.”

States that do criminalize homosexuality include Algeria, Kenya, Libya, Sudan, Barbados, Jamaica, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Singapore.

Approximately 37 percent of U.N. member states have laws against same-sex activity, according to ILGA.

Same-sex activity has only been legal in every U.S. state since 2003, when the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that the criminalization of same-sex activity was unconstitutional.

Many countries have morality codes and “anti-propaganda” laws that “target freedom of expression related to sexual orientation,” according to ILGA, even if homosexuality is not a crime per se. For example, the founder of an LGBT youth support group was convicted in Russia, where homosexuality is legal, under one such propaganda law.

Several states have laws that make homosexual activity punishable by death, but only four sovereign states – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan – actually applied such a law countrywide in 2017.

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Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter