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Global Issues Report

Marriage Equality around the World

Luis Tovar

The University of Texas at El Paso

RWS 1301

Dr. Vierra



Marriage Equality is the abstract idea that marriage rights should be extended to any couple,

regardless of their sexual or romantic orientation, regardless of what society labels as marriage.

The root of the word marriage is a union between a man and a woman, anything outside of that

was considered abnormal. Queer individuals want to fight for marriage equality so that they are

able to marry freely without being judged upon their sexual preferences or their gender


Global Issues Report

Marriage Equality around the World

Ever since marriage equality was legalized in the United Sates in 2015, there has been an

ongoing trend for others to follow the United States’ footsteps to try and do the same. However,

just because the United States is a strong global force, it does not mean that they started a drive

for marriage equality. On the contrary, marriage equality has always been an ongoing battle

outside the United States before they made it a trend. Today, individuals who claim themselves

as homosexuals still face prosecution in parts of Africa. Homosexuals still face discrimination

today in parts of Asia. Despite having legalized same-sex marriage or unions, Europe and Latin

America are still uneased on LGBTQ+ individuals. Marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, vary

throughout the world. Without first accepting LGBTQ+ individuals across the globe, the battle

for marriage equality will never progress around the world.


Attitudes towards marriage equality is more supportive in the Americas and Europe than

it is in Africa or Middle-Eastern countries. According to the Pew Research Center, data shows

that same-sex marriage is mostly legalized in the Americas and Europe (2017). By contrast,

when looking at Africa and Middle-Eastern countries, figure 1, from LGBTQ Stats taken by

IGLA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), shows that as of

2016, homosexuality is punishable by Death and that homosexual acts can lead to a life time in

prison (2017, p. 92-94). Furthermore, figure two down below, taken from the Pew Research

Center (2013) shows attitude towards homosexual acceptance throughout different regions across

the globe. This data suggests that attitudes towards homosexuality in Africa and the Middle-East

are negative, thus being unsupportive of marriage equality.


Although marriage equality has been shown to be supported in Europe, much of its

support comes from the Western countries unlike the rest of Europe. Diamant & Gardner, from

the Pew Research Center, conducted a research between 2015 and 2017 on 33 countries in

Europe to show differences between religion, marriage equality, religion, and national identity.

The data shows that countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Romania and

Sweden show between 73%-88% support for same-sex marriage; while others such as Greece,

Bulgaria, Hungary, and Lithuania show between 12%- 27% (2018). Furthermore, the research

clearly shows that Eastern and Central Europe have a great emphasis on religion. Western

Europeans believe that religion is not a huge part of their lives. Greece and Romania showed that

55% and 50% of adults saw religion as a huge factor in their lives, with Christianity being the

most common religion. This reflects how Greece and Romania showed little support for marriage

equality because they most likely line up their views of same-sex marriage with that of a

traditional marriage between a man and a woman. When looking at Europe as a whole, it is

evident that the West and East have different recognitions and attitudes towards homosexuals.

According to Oppenheimer, Oliveira, and Blumenthal, the Netherlands became the first country

in the world to allow same-sex marriage, but this wasn’t the only thing going forward for

marriage equality in Europe. The authors also took note of how Germany, Finland, Croatia,

Luxemburg, Iceland, and various other countries passed laws that headed into the direction of

marriage equality throughout the years (2014, p. 202). On the other hand, Oppenheimer takes

note that in Eastern Europe Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovenia are the only

states that recognize same-sex couples, while the other Eastern states do not recognize same-sex

couples or only provide minimal rights to same-sex partners (p. 204-205). To conclude with this

data, the Pew Research Center also made an analysis on young Western Europeans being more

progressive than older groups. When it came to gay rights, specifically, allowing same-sex

couples to adopt, Figure 3 shows that younger Europeans are more supportive of letting gays and

lesbians adopt (2018). It is also important to notice that even in Italy, where LGBTQ+ rights

aren’t as supported in the region, younger Europeans show more favor than their predecessors.

This shows that younger generations are helping Europe move further into allowing legalization

of full LGBTQ+ rights. There is no denying that Millennials and younger people, not just in

Europe, across the world are more supportive of marriage equality and LGBTQ+ rights than

previous generations.

The ideals of family among Latin American families surround the central idea of

machismo and keeping traditional family values. According to Ingoldsby, familism is the idea

that an individual will prioritize their family over their own individual interest, and machismo

represents the masculine traits that is encouraged upon males as well as being dominant over

women over being sentimental and feminine (1991, p. 57-58). Ingoldsby explains that within

Latin families, fathers are known to treat their sons in an accentuating manner that highlights

masculinity. Encouraging them to have sexual relations with women to show that they have

“matured” to making a family and providing for the family; essentially, the man of the house.

Women are also placed under a certain role. Women are told to be the housewife. To stay loyal

to their husband, inferior, and have nothing but support for their husband, even going as far as

just being useful for childbearing (p. 59-60). The idea behind familism and machismo in the

Latinx communities forces the ideas of gender roles. When it comes to same-sex couples, we see

how machismo and familism clash with the idea of having a partnership between two individuals

of the same-sex. The reason for this ideology can be traced to Latin America having strong

Catholic views. This is supported by Dion and Díez who states that oppositions of same-sex

marriage come from Catholic Church hierarchies who stand with the idea that sex and marriage

line up with reproduction and is a morality issue that goes against the church (2017, p. 75); they

also note that Latin American societies put a high value into traditional religious families and

self-expression values, gender roles, as said earlier by Ingoldsby (p. 59). Dion and Díez go into

further detail on how Catholic powers force their traditional values to the public and justify their

actions and beliefs by framing homosexuality as a sin. The origins of Latin American attitudes

towards homosexuals is influenced by religions values and ideas of sticking to what is

traditional. Despite having passed same-sex marriages in some countries, conservatory views on

same-sex marriages often clash with the ever-evolving ideologies of liberals. Marriage equality

can be extended throughout Latin America, but they need to overcome their traditional morals on

gender roles as a whole.

Marriage equality, and homosexuals in general, is not supported in Africa because of

Western influences. In 2014, Africa was debating whether or not to sign off on an anti-

homosexuality bill, because U.S. evangelists depicted homosexuality is a negative influence.

Smith, from The Guardian, explains the process that eventually lead Uganda president, Yoweri

Museveni, to sign off on the bill (2014). Smit tells how Museveni received a report that came

from “medical experts” outlining how homosexuality is not a disease, however, the report

claimed that homosexuality tendencies are stronger in some individuals than others. Simon

Lokomodo, a minister in Uganda, says they interpreted homosexuality as inhumane due to how

they heard homosexuality being portrayed by U.S. evangelicals; they depict homosexuals as

taking part in child molestation, beastiality, rape, and carried deadly diseases. Because of this,

African leaders sought out homosexuality as something that is harmful to their society. Kapya

Kaoma, an Episcopal priest from Zambia, and the Political Research Associates describe how

society use the “blame the gays” to overt society from the problems that the government is

facing, blaming the problem on someone else. This is what happened in Africa. The blame for

various things were pinned on homosexuals. This is important because Smith states that the Pew

Research Center showed that in 1910, 9% of the sub-Sharan African population affiliated with

Christianity, and that by 2010, 63% of the population was Christian. Adding another layer as to

why Africa overall is intolerable of homosexuality. One last important factor that Smith makes,

is that according to Peter Tatchell, before western colonization, Africa had no record against

homosexuality. Anthropologist also indicated that there was a central ethnic group in Africa,

where it was normal for a male warrior to marry a teenage boy. Therefore, this information

shows that Africa, if anything, adopted homophobia from western influences. Making not only

marriage equality something that is yet to be gained, but for LGBTQ+ rights to be ingrained in

all of Africa.

Looking beyond the harsh realities of LGBTQ+ Africans in certain regions of Africa, as

mentioned before, it was not uncommon for African cultures to have same-sex unions.

According to Eskridge, he notes that anthropologist Pritchard sates that “boy wives” were very

common in Azande (Sudan). Boy wives were legally and culturally accepted in Azande and in

other African cultures (1993, p. 1459). Eskridge describes that a man, typically a warrior, would

tend to the boy’s family, providing services for them in exchange for the hand of the boy,

referred to as diare, wife, while in exchange, the boy would do little things that a housewife

would do. The pair were known to perform intercourse when the warrior would come back

home. Not only was it common to have same-sex relations between men, but Eskridge also notes

same-sex relationships between woman as well. It is claimed that “woman marriage” was a way

for African women to marry each other to strengthen each other socially and economically, as

women did have a place in power and could even further their position in society by obtaining

many wives. This was allowed however, because African societies would allow women to marry

each other only if one of them would take on the role of a “husband” (1993, p. 1460-1462). This

data further expands the idea that because of Western ideas, homophobia came to be in Africa,

since before colonization, Africans were well abundant in homosexual lifestyles.

Homosexuality still faces discrimination in Asia today; although Taiwan is the first to

legalize same-sex marriage, different regions in Asia do not tolerate same-sex relations due to

the influence that British Empires left on Asian countries. According to Panditaratne,

homosexuals have and are still being decriminalized by former colonies of the British Empire;

some of these include Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Singapore (2016, p.

176). Within these countries, there are set rules that were laid by English legislation against

“carnal intercourse” and “gross indecency”, which relates to sodomy. More so, another article

written by anthropologist Hawkins, describes the process that Japan went through with

homophobia by western influence, before it legalized same-sex marriage. Hawkins writes that in

Japan, homosexual behavior was viewed as a hobby; it did not affect an individual’s relationship

with their family per say, nor did it bother society. It also simulated how the West portrayed

homosexuality, as during the Meiji period, Japan set forth to mimic Western customs into their

own cultures (2000, par. 6). Hawkins writes that in Japan, it was normal for Buddhists to have an

androgynous boy as their love interest as well as males who took on female roles in Kabuki

theater way before the Meiji period. Another source by Eskridge also notes that boy wives,

compassionate same-sex marriages as well as transgenderal same-sex marriages where common

in Asian cultures, to which all have roots coming from common practices in Greece (1993, p.

1462). This shows that there is a pattern similar to that of Africa’s. Western customs and ideas

affected homosexual views on both Asia and Africa despite having been fine with homosexuals

prior to their dictatorship. Today, East Asia has legalized same-sex marriage in Taiwan, Hong-

Kong, Japan, South Asia, China, and Korea. Similarly, South Africa is noticeable for also

legalizing same-sex marriage. It shows how in certain regions, Western ideals stuck around for

marriage equality to not be accepted in Africa and Asia.

In a similar way to Africa, certain same-sex relations were common amongst Asian

cultures. Eskridge claims that the same relations found in Africa were found in Asia, which were

transgenderal same-sex marriage, companionate same-sex marriage, and the transgenerational

tradition of boy wives (1993, p. 1462). One example that Ekridge uses, is found within Paleo-

Siberians. Shamans practiced berdache, the idea that an individual is two spirited, having both

male and female spirits, and would take on a third ceremonial gender role according to their

culture (2017, p. 6). This idea of having both three genders as a spirit, made shamans wear what

were labeled as women clothes and have a male partner who they would perform intercourse

with. The idea of two-spirited individuals can further make a different claim that supports the

idea that when it comes to marriage, gender was not an important factor in Asian cultures. The

roles of a wife and a husband were just a structure that could be follow, but as seen with not only

Asian culture, but African culture as well, individuals could adapt and replace the traditional

male and female roles in same-sex relations.

Looking at marriage equality in the United States, there has been an increasing amount of

support for not just same-sex couples, but for the majority of the LGBTQ+ community. Under

the University of Texas System, thanks to the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples

are able to apply for same-sex spouse eligibility as of 2015 (2018). UTEP students can receive

the same same-sex marriage benefits that other heterosexual couples are able to obtain. Same-sex

couples in UTEP, and around the United States, are not under much heat for being homosexuals

like the other countries noted in this research.


Marriage equality is heavily reflected by a countries’ views on homosexuality, with the

Europe and Latin America lining up their views due to religion and Africa and Asia being

influenced by Western ideals despite having origins and customs that were fine with

homosexuality or homosexual acts. Marriage equality is something that is still being fought till

this day. It is not a Western idea that was set in stone after America legalizes same-sex marriage,

but rather, it has become a movement that is trying to erase the homophobic themes that Western

cultures brought to the rest of the world. The struggle for marriage equality has been ongoing all

over the world, without the need for America to “lead” the world into this. This shows that

homosexuality is still a topic that is being discussed today, not taking into consideration the

struggles that the rest of the LGBTQ+ spectrum faces. Before marriage equality can even be

achieved everywhere, acceptance and rights for the LGBTQ+ community must first be

acknowledged around the world before marriage equality can be established.



Deschamps, D. & Singer, B. L. (2017). LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and

Queer People by the Numbers New York: The New Press, 2017.

Diamant, J. & Gardner, S. (2018). In EU, there’s an East-West divide over religious minorities,

gay marriage, national identity. Retrieved from:



Dion, M. L., & Díez, J. (2017). Democratic values, Religiosity, and Rupport for Same-Sex

marriage in Latin America. Latin American Politics and Society, 59(4), 75-98.


Eskridge, W. N. (1993). A History of Same-Sex Marriage. Virginia Law Review, 79(7), 1419-

1513. doi:10.2307/1073379

Hawkins, J. (2000). Japan's Journey into Homophobia. Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, 7(1),

36. doi:


Ingoldsby, B. B. (1991). The Latin American Family: Familism vs. Machismo. Journal of

Comparative Family Studies, 57-62.





Oppenheimer, D. B., Oliveira, A., & Blumenthal, A. (2014). Religiosity and Same-Sex Marriage

in the United States and Europe. Berkeley Journal of International Law, 32(1), 195-238.

Retrieved from http://0-



Panditaratne, D. (2016). Decriminalizing Same Sex Relations in Asia: Socio-Cultural Factors

Impeding Legal Reform. American University International Law Review, 31(2), 171.

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Pew Research Center. (2017). Gay Marriage Around the World. Retrieved


Pew Research Center. (2018). Younger adults in Western Europe are more socially, politically

progressive than older age groups. Retrieved from


Smith, D. (2014). Why Africa is the most homophobic continent. Retrieved



The University of Texas System. (2018) Same-sex Spouse Eligibility. Retrieved



Figure 1: Areas where being a homosexual is punishable by death today. This

shows that without first being progressive on homosexuality views, Africa
cannot accomplish marriage equality.

Figure 2: Acceptance on homosexuality globally.

This figure reflects the research done on the regions
being discussed as the root for allowing marriage
equality is to be open minded on homosexual

Figure 3: Younger Europeans show more support for same-

sex couples being able to adopt than other age groups. This
shows that younger generations are more likely to support
LGBTQ+ rights overall.