8 Countries Where Pride Week Still Couldn’t Happen — And What Would Happen If They Tried

Countries on every single continent (except Antarctica, obviously) celebrate LGBTQ pride with rainbow flags, over-the-top costumes, and parades that draw huge crowds. While so many people around the world throw extravagant parties to recognize the LGBTQ community, it’s important to remember that not everyone shares the same freedoms. In fact, there are still many countries where Pride Week simply couldn’t happen without major repercussions.

Same-sex marriage has only recently started to be recognized as a human right, and currently only 21 other countries allow it nationwide. On the other side of the issue, many more nations still outlaw being gay in general or having sex with someone of the same gender, some of which even allow severe punishments for such “crimes.” As you probably suspected, religion is usually a factor, and some countries following sharia law punish homosexuality with the death penalty (in some cases the laws are only applicable to Muslims, but not always), so people definitely aren’t organizing outspoken LGBTQ events.

As the U.S. celebrates the beauty and diversity of its LGBTQ community, as well as how far the nation’s come on LGBTQ rights in the last few years, don’t forget that many people still don’t have the freedom to be who they are in public. Here are eight countries where Pride Week isn’t possible, and what would likely happen if LGBTQ residents tried to organize it.

Russia

Red Square
CREDIT: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Most Russian cities have outright banned Pride parades, and Moscow went so far as to prohibit such events for the next 100 years. Although a proposed bill seeking to criminalize “public displays of homosexuality” and send people to jail for simply holding hands with someone of the same gender was voted down in January, it’s still illegal to promote same-sex relationships to minors. A giant rainbow parade would certainly be considered promotional, subjecting individuals to fines of up to 5,000 rubles (about $172) and organizations up to 500,000 rubles ($17,200).

Saudi Arabia

Pilgrims Attend Prayers In Medina
CREDIT: Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries where the interpretation of sharia law calls for any married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim who commits sodomy with a Muslim to be stoned to death. It’s dangerous for people to even be gay in private, and if people were to take to the streets celebrating LGBTQ pride, they could quite literally be killed.

Kenya

Political Stand Off Affects Kenyan Tourism
CREDIT: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Homosexuality is illegal in 36 African countries, including Kenya. Adults can be put behind bars for up to 14 years for sleeping with someone of the same sex, and there have been eight incidents of mob violence against LGBTQ people in the country since 2008. So, Kenyans trying to hold Pride events would face prison time and potentially physical violence from bigoted neighbors.

Iran

A Trip Through The Heart Of Central Iran
CREDIT: John Moore/Getty Images

Because Iran also follows sharia law, gay men can legally be killed for having sex and flogged for kissing, while women can only be flogged. Unlike Saudi Arabia, the law doesn’t specifically call for gay men to be stoned to death, but the government would have them killed for their identity nonetheless.

Yemen

Yemen And The Guantanmo Connection
CREDIT: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Following the same Middle Eastern trend, married men in Yemen can be sentenced to death by stoning for being gay. Unmarried men, on the other hand, face whipping or one year in prison, while women can receive up to seven years in prison. Such strict laws do not invite colorful LGBTQ parades.

Sudan

Sudan Refugee Crisis Worsens
CREDIT: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Although southern parts of the country are more lenient, many parts of Sudan punish gay relationships with flogging and imprisonment, pulling out the death penalty for repeat offenders. Even in parts of the African country with less strict laws, Pride would be met with a lot of resistance.

Somalia

African Union Peacekeepers Patrol Mogadishu After Al-Shabab Militants Withdraw
CREDIT: John Moore/Getty Images

In Somalia, being gay is also illegal, sometimes punished with jail time and other times with death. A  22-year-old Somali woman was sentenced to death in January for being a lesbian, and many Somalis keep their sexual orientation a secret for fear of retaliation from Islamist terror groups.

Indonesia

The Ancient Dani Tribe Of Papua
CREDIT: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images

Being gay isn’t technically a crime in Indonesia, apart from the conservative Aceh region, but more than 89 percent of LGBTQ people in the Asian nation report experiencing “psychological, physical, sexual, economic, and cultural abuse,” according to a recent survey by Indonesian LGBT rights organization Arus Pelangi. Because the country as a whole is so unaccepting of the LGBTQ community, a Pride parade would not go over well.

The world has a long way to go before everyone can be themselves without fearing for their lives or freedom.