Colourful rainbow flag. Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer on Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

For many countries around the world, Pride Month is celebrated in June as a time to honour the rights and memories of the LGBTQI+ community. The month has special significance because of the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York which were a major milestone in the LGBTQI+ liberation movement in the US. The month of June was declared Gay and Lesbian Pride Month by US president Bill Clinton in 1999, and expanded to the entire LGBTQ+ community by US president Barack Obama in 2009. It has since spread worldwide and become a time to celebrate and reflect on the achievements and struggles of the LGBTQI+ community. 

The first half of 2021 has been a mixed bag of encouraging and disheartening news for the LGBTQI+ community worldwide. Firstly, while the COVID-19 pandemic affected all communities in 2020, sexual minorities were specifically targeted and accused of “spreading the virus”. Additionally, most if not all Pride parades were cancelled in 2020 and 2021. 

Meanwhile, numerous governments are reversing inclusive or tolerant policies and now condemning, suppressing or even penalizing any expression of LGBTQI+ identity, visibility or culture. 

For instance, Hong Kong, one of the few LGBTQI+-tolerant societies in Asia, began dissociating itself from the upcoming 2022 Gay Games. This would be the first time the games would take place in Asia, which would likely bring an estimated 129 million US dollars to a city that has suffered major losses due to closed tourism during the pandemic. Despite this, the Beijing view that the LGBTQI+ community should be marginalized seems to be gaining support in the Hong Kong government.   

Similarly, in May, Cameroon sentenced two transgender people to five years in jail, citing its legislation that criminalizes homosexuality. Human Rights Watch reported at least 24 LGBTQI+ people had been beaten, arrested or threatened throughout the country between February and April. 

On June 15, the Hungarian parliament passed new legislation that bans sharing content in schools that can be perceived as praising or accepting homosexuality or gender changes. The country already banned gender studies in University programs in 2018. 

At the same time, progressive legislation and policies have been adopted or reinstated in many countries, a testimony to continuous activism, alliances and efforts to change negative perceptions and guarantee equality for all.

For example, in February the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan amended its penal code to decriminalise homosexual acts

Similarly, in March, Angola changed its penal code — which dated back to 1886 and was shaped by Portuguese colonial policies — and decriminalized homosexual relationships on February 11, 2021. It also introduced punishment for any expression of homophobia, including in the workplace. 

In the Caribbean, there is a steady movement challenging legislation inherited from the colonial period to decriminalize homosexuality and offer equal rights to all. Trinidad and Tobago, which abolished the criminalization of homosexuality in 2019, has now established an Equal Opportunity Commission and Equal Opportunity Tribunal to investigate issues of inequality. 

And finally, in Georgia, opposition parties signed a petition in May demanding equal rights for the LGBQI+ community. The move is unusual as society in the Southern Caucasus country is predominantly religious and conservative and though the first Pride celebration was held in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2019, it had to be limited to a very short period of time due to security concerns.

Here are the stories that Global Voices covered to illustrate the situation of LGBTQI+ rights around the world in the first half of 2021:


Stories about Pride 2021: Growing visibility, increasing attacks