Over the past half century, Australia has made significant progress when it comes to LGBTI rights.
We have decriminalised homosexual acts between consenting adults. We have removed many forms of institutionalised discrimination against LGBTI Australians. And we have belatedly legislated same-sex marriage.
There is more to be done in Australia, but there is much more to be done around the world.The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report found that as of May 2017, there are eight nations in which the death penalty is imposed as a punishment for same-sex consensual sexual acts.
Across the globe, 72 states continue to criminalise same-sex consensual activity—that is, more than one-third of the world’s nations.
The examples are chilling. This month, Malaysia released former politician Anwar Ibrahim, but continues to make sodomy illegal under section 377 of the Penal Code, which prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’.
In Bangladesh, Xulhaz Mannan, the founder of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBTI magazine, was brutally hacked to death as punishment for his activism.
In Tunisia, Bouhdid Belhedi, a campaigner for LGBTI rights, was assaulted by Islamic extremists and beaten by a mob outside his house in Tunis as a policeman watched.
In Ecuador, gay people are forced to undergo conversion therapy in secret clinics, where they are raped and beaten even though homosexuality is legal.
Since the 2013 military intervention in Egypt, at least 250 LGBTI people have been arrested.
In Aceh, the Indonesian police this year arrested 12 transgender people.
In Iran, gay men are sometimes hanged.
In Russia, homophobic violence is on the rise.
In Syria, there are media reports of LGBTI individuals being thrown from tall buildings head first and then stoned by bystanders.
And although homosexuality is legal in Turkey, it has one of the worst records of human rights violations against LGBTI people in Europe.
Homosexuality is not a choice. Being transgender is not a lifestyle. Equality is indivisible. Human rights are universal.
It doesn’t matter whether you approach politics from the standpoint of freedom or from the standpoint of equality.
As individuals, as a civil society, and as government, Australians must do more to stand up for LGBTI rights around the globe.
Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fenner. This is a speech delivered in the Australian Parliament on May 24 2018.