Around the world, people who are LGBTQ+, or who support the rights of those who are, face lengthy prison sentences, physical violence, and even the death penalty. Laws disguised as being “family friendly” criminalise and penalise same-sex relations and individuals who do not conform to expected gender identities.
66 Jurisdictions criminalize private, consensual same-sex sexual activity.
12 In 12 jurisdictions, a conviction can result in the death penalty.
14 14 countries criminalize gender identity and/or expression of transgender people.
The lives of LGBTQ+ people are at heightened risk during conflict or under the rule of extremist leaders looking for a scapegoat.
Through our TrialWatch initiative, we have defended the rights of vulnerable individuals, including the LGBTQ+ community, who are targeted by oppressive governments through the courts. We do this by monitoring and grading criminal trials to expose those that are a sham and by providing legal support to free those unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned. While we work on one case at a time, the goal is always to change the system by overturning the unfair laws that land individuals in prison.
Nigeria: Discriminatory Laws Facilitate Harassment
In Nigeria, TrialWatch monitored the first case to be tried under the country’s draconian ‘Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act,’ which criminalizes direct or indirect “public show[s] of same sex amorous relationship[s]” with up to ten years imprisonment. While the case, brought against 47 men arrested at a hotel bar, was eventually struck out, TrialWatch reporting exposed its abusive nature.
Several defendants said they were mistreated in custody, and others were forcibly ‘outed’ by being paraded in public by the authorities. And despite being given numerous opportunities by the court, the prosecution produced no relevant evidence. Even though the case was ultimately dismissed, the defendants suffered serious consequences, including loss of their jobs, estrangement from their families, stigmatization, physical violence, and legal fees.
This case starkly highlights the need to repeal the Same Sex Marriage Prevention Act and to cease harassment of LGBTQ individuals in Nigeria.
Russia: Activist Safely Out of Country
In Russia, TrialWatch published a preliminary report on the case against LGBTQ+ activist Yulia Tsvetkova, after which she was acquitted. Ms. Tsvetkova, a 26-year-old women’s and LGBTQ+ rights activist from Siberia, was charged with pornography for posting artistic images of female genitalia as part of a body-positive women’s empowerment campaign and faced up to six years in prison.
Our report details how the indictment against her was riddled with indicia of discrimination, suggesting for instance that the images she posted might create “a stereotype of female sexuality as an isolated phenomenon that exists outside of sexual relations with men.” While the prosecution appealed her acquittal, and the Court of Cassation ultimately ordered her retrial, she was able to safely get out of the country in the meantime.
It’s especially urgent that the public be permitted to see at least some of the trial given the indictment’s references to ‘erroneous ideas about the sexual sphere of a person,’ which suggest a risk of discrimination at trial.Legal Director of TrialWatch
Poland: The Case of ‘Rainbow Mary’
Polish LGBTQ+ rights activists who were prosecuted for depicting the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo on posters had their acquittal upheld by an appeals court following TrialWatch monitoring and TrialWatch Expert Professor Lisa Davis giving the trial a grade of “D”. One of the activists, Anna Prus, told the Clooney Foundation for Justice they all felt compelled to act in response to a display a church had put up for Easter which included a crucifix surrounded by wooden boxes with different sins written on them, including “LGBT” and “gender.”
In that courtroom, it wasn’t just us on one side and the Bishop and conservative politicians on the other, it felt like a battle for Poland, what kind of country Poland is going to be.one of the three co-defendants who was acquitted
Uganda: Charges Dismissed Against 67 People
In Uganda, TrialWatch helped secure the dismissal of charges against 67 people following a raid on an LGBTQ+-friendly bar. From 2019 to 2022, TrialWatch sent monitors to observe the proceedings, and reported on the fact that the process was clearly motivated by homophobia as well as exposing serious fair trial violations in a report.
Among other things, the defendants were denied access to key evidence and subject to undue delays because of prosecutorial misconduct, prolonging the cases so that the defendants (who were on bail) had the charges hanging over them for several years.
Following the release of TrialWatch’s report, courts in three of the cases, covering more than 30 defendants, dismissed the charges on the basis of the prosecution’s conduct.
TrialWatch Report Finds Russian Court Should Not Have Closed Proceedings Against Activist Yulia Tsvetkova