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A map of the countries where homosexuality is criminalized

An updated map or laws banning homosexuality or allowing gay marriage. India just added itself. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

India's Supreme Court has reinstated a colonial-era law criminalizing same-sex acts, once again making it illegal to have consensual same-sex relations in India. A lower court had ruled the law unconstitutional in 2009, but the country's highest court overruled it Wednesday. Indians convicted under the law can face up to 10 years in prison.

India joins a number of other countries in criminalizing homosexual acts. The map above shows, in red, where it is illegal to perform homosexual acts. It includes most Muslim-majority countries and much of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a small number of others. Dark red countries have laws that allow the death penalty in such cases.

As a contrast, the map also shows, in blue, countries that allow legal same-sex marriages or civil unions.

This map, though, perhaps understates the significance of India re-joining the list of countries that criminalize homosexuality. India is the world's second-most populous country, with 1.24 billion citizens. That's more than the combined populations of the next 20 most-populous countries where same-sex acts are criminalized. If we assume that rates of homosexuality are consistent worldwide, then the number of gay men and women who can be jailed for their sexuality may well have just doubled.



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Terri Rupar · December 10, 2013

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