5 Muslim Nations Where Gay is Legal

These are five Muslim countries where being gay is not a crime. What do they have in common? None of them were colonized by the British Empire. Many countries in the Global South, whether Muslim or otherwise, are generally using colonial laws that pre-date their local penal codes to criminalize romantic love between consenting same-sex couples. Whether in West Africa, or Southeast Asia, in the heart of Europe or the Middle East, these countries remind us that the conversation on gay rights is not as clean cut as some might have imagined it to be.


Gays in this African nation might face local homophobia, but the law is on their side. In 2010, a Malian volunteer for the Peace Corps wrote that she looked up the laws dealing with sexuality, and saw that Article 179 of the Malian penal code did not specify heterosexual or homosexual sexual activities, but instead decried public indecency. She said that she was relieved because most “countries in Africa, 38 to be exact, have laws against homosexuality and some with the death penalty.”


Jordan was under the Ottoman Empire, where homosexuality was decriminalized 75 years earlier, but between 1922 and 1945 the country was a subject mandated by the League of Nations. However, in 1951 the new nation made homosexuality legal. “Jordan is considered an open minded country, and when coming to cities, the tolerance is even higher,” said the editor of My.Kali, a gay magazine that is based in the capital, talking to the Italian-based e-Zine Il Grande Colibri. “And considering the fact that it’s an Islamic country, the morality of the culture could be a huge pressure to many people to remain discreet, but it never stopped many of my friends and other LGBTQ people to come out and show who they are,” he added.


In Indonesia being gay has been legal since, well, forever. No, really, the country never had any legal prohibitions against homosexuality, at least since its founding as a nation. Further, the country has the longest running LGBT organizations in Asia. Despite having the largest Muslim population, Indonesia has remained a great example of the importance of the separation of religion and state. On the other hand, Singapore (non-Muslim) and Malaysia (Muslim), who are neighbors to Indonesia, have laws that make it illegal to be gay. The later two have both been colonized by the British Empire.


In 1858, the Ottoman Caliph decriminalized homosexuality. This affected many countries in three continents. When Turkey became a solo nation in 1920, it didn’t see a need to change this law. Omer Akpinar, who is with KAOS LG, which is one of the largest LGBT organizations in Turkey, told Mashable that their organization was never censored. Jack Scott, a British writer who moved to Turkey with his partner and who is the author of Perking the Pansies: Jack and Liam Move to Turkey, said his “obvious union with Liam has never attracted bad publicity from any Turk,” talking to the real estate company Quest Turkey.


Being gay has been legal in Albania since 1995. This pre-dominantly Muslim nation has been in the forefront of gay rights in the Balkans. In 2013, ILGA Europe said that the country was the friendliest nation to the gays in the area, as it has a welcoming government and an anti-discrimination law. Kristi Pinderi, who is with the LGBT organization Pink Embassy, says that the anti-discrimination law is “important because in theory a teacher, for example, who is transgender, and decides to go and teach wearing a dress, I can’t imagine what the reaction would be, but the law protects that need, if there is a need like that,” talking to the organization International Day Against Homophobia.

Other countries with a large Muslim population and where homosexuality is legal include Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Niger, Northern Cyprus, Palestine, and Tajikistan.

All of the above mentioned countries, like the entire world, have varies challenges for LGBT people. However, because the law is on their side, living in these countries create an atmosphere where one can imagine a fight, a possibility of freedom, and the dream that one day being gay is not any different from being straight.

Afdhere Jama is the author of  Queer Jihad: LGBT Muslims on Coming Out, Activism, and the FaithHe lives in the United States.

22 thoughts on “5 Muslim Nations Where Gay is Legal

  1. This article is really fake and not true !! I am from Indonesia, and in Indonesia, lesbian and gay, also same sex marriage is illegal !!

  2. This article is very misleading. Indonesia doesn’t not legalise lgbt. If the admin willing to do more research into current lgbt situation in indonesia , it will clearly shown that the situation are more dreary than ever.

  3. This is true, In Indonesia Homosexuality is legal except same-sex marriage. ACEH and SOUTH SUMATRA are the only provinces where homosexuality is not legal. Check it out on WIKIPEDIA.

  4. Dear Praja S and Asw,

    Bloody hell. Calm down you two, Indonesia don’t have law that say its illegal TO BE gay, lesbian, bi, etc. well bish, It’s just about religion and people’s way of thinking. But last time I checked, no, we don’t have law about ‘its forbidden and illegal TO BE’ lgbt in our country. So I think it’s fine to be gay or lesbian or bi or whatever sexual orientation you want to be as long you can handle people’s way of thinking, express your self fellas, we can’t choose who we want to love right? EXCEPT, if they want to marry each other and adopt a child we just have law who says “married couples consisting of a husband and a wife” we don’t have “husband and husband” or “wife and wife” and well, law can be changed into the good one or bad one, I’m hoping the open minded one, haha. God bless yall

    P.S for “all homophob who actually reads this article and decide to take a look at the comment” : hey mate, We don’t have to be lgbt to support lgbt. Like, we don’t have to be female to support female rights. And sorry, before you want to insult me because I really support lgbt, I don’t label my self, I’m unicorn, and fab, thanks.

    Jk. I’m a human but yes I’m fabulous
    love – D

  5. My understanding is that homosexuality is legal everywhere in Indonesia except for Aceh. However, it’s pretty obvious that LGBT people have a lot of legal challenges everywhere in Indonesia that straight people don’t face.

  6. the author of this article is probably sourcing himself on wikipedia and has never been in the balkans or indonesia.
    If you wear a dress (as a man) in albania,the locals will beat you up and send you to the hospital (or the morgue)

  7. Hi, first of all I would like to say Indonesia was colonized by the British Empire around 1800s. While the period of colonization was very brief it would be false to say that Indonesia was never colonized by the British.

    Secondly to the writer and commentators I say that while it is true that being gay/lesbian is legal in Indonesia (Indonesia doesn’t have any law that prohibits being gay/lesbian aside from article 292 KUHP which prohibits same sex sexual activities with an underage person) LGBT still faces disadvantages and discrimination in Indonesia such as: Gay marriage is not recognized by the law as the definition of marriage in article 1 UU 1/1974 defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Also Indonesia doesn’t implement a separation of church and state concept such as USA seeing that the importance of religion is mentioned throughout our constitution and can be seen as an influence in our law. Lastly while the law maybe doesn’t attack the LGBT community I wouldn’t say it is on their side either seeing that Indonesian law doesn’t protect LGBT people from discrimination, abuses, or gives them recognition before the law and equality in the eye of the State.

    I appreciate the writer’s effort to showcase the tolerance of LGBT in muslim countries but I think he should do their research thoroughly. To the writer I say thank you and keep up your good work on highlighting positivism, next time maybe you can cite your sources so your article can be more credible. Looking forward for your next article.

    1. Hi, the British did not colonize Indonesia but small part of Indonesia and only for less than 5 years. That is not enough to really create an impact on culture.

  8. It states “These are five Muslim countries where being gay is not a crime. What do they have in common? None of them were colonized by the British Empire.”. That’s implying that it is somehow the British empires fault that a lot of muslim countries have outlawed homosexuality. What about all the muslim countries who were under French rule and today has laws banning homosexuality. Or the fact that the middle eastern countries which today are hanging gay people were under ottoman rule for hundreds of years before they were under British and French rule for a few decades. My opinion is that laws regarding homosexuality in muslim countries has more to do with Islam than a colonial past.

    1. Hi Nick, the homophobic laws in Muslim-majority societies are not about Islam just like the homophobic laws in Christian-majority countries in Africa are not Christianity. It is about recent colonial histories, economic disadvantages, and inequality to access in general. The notion that Muslim homophobia is Islamic is inaccurate when one looks at larger Muslim history in comparison to the colonial powers. Finally, there are even countries in the Muslim world that were not officially colonized but who are homophobic nevertheless because they are influenced by their neighbors just the same.

  9. The only two comments in this article are opposing the LGBT. I am from Indonesia and I am here to say that homosexuality IS NOT ILLEGAL, but it’s also NOT LEGALIZED YET in Indonesia. Our government never banned it or illegalized LGBT. So all of you, the homophobic Indonesian people, screw you. I’m not gay but I support the LGBT community, especially in Indonesia. They went through a lot of obstacles just to reach the rights to love anyone they want.
    Buka pikiran kalian semua. Jika Allah kalian pernah menentang hal itu, menentang orang untuk mencintai SESAMA, berarti Allah kalian bukanlah Allah yang baik bagi mereka.

  10. Turkey? Really? With the radicalization of the fundamentalism, we passed from a woman president to Erdogan, which mandated the chador. I dunno about gays, though.

  11. Indonesia does not legalise same sex marriage, but it still not make same sex relationship to be illegal by law either
    Note that same sex marriage is illegal but same sex relationship is still remain undefined in law.

  12. @Praja @SAsw no the author is right, indonesia don’t have any legal prohibitions against homosexual act (except aceh province that have syaria law). But here, marriage can only be done by heterosexual couple.

  13. Firstly, thank you for showing that the narrative of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and homophobia being the rule for the global south/global Islamic community isn’t wholly true (and yes, much of it based in a colonial heritage). That said, Mali was part of the French empire, and certainly other African countries colonised by the French have laws against same-sex activity (e.g. Senegal which is also a predominantly Muslim country).

  14. Gay is not the same as L B and T, disappointing that this distinction is not made when journalists describes the situation in a country (especially as gender also plays its role..)

  15. I’m Indonesian and I can assure you that it’s legal, same sex marriage is not legal though. The age of consent for gays is higher than heterosexual, 18 and 16 respectively.

  16. It’s true Indonesian Law never make LGBT illegal. But you can’t say it’s legal either since LGBTs can’t marry in Indonesia. Muslim country or not Indonesia follow other asian countries rule about LGBT “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t flaunt your LGBTness on public and we won’t bother you”. The acceptance of LGBT in society vary from region to region, though in some cities there is this “religious organization” that always take violent path to show their opinion on anything.

  17. No, this article was saying that there are not official rules or constitution from Indonesian government that prohibit same-sex activity, except in Aceh. If you being gay in Indonesia, you won’t face a prison or death penalty from the country, but people who openly gay will get a mockery from citizens since Indonesia is a biggest muslim country.

  18. I Have Been a Muslim for quite a few Years Now & I Jujst Come out & Proud to Be a muslim.
    I am a Gay Muslim Brother & I’ll will fellow the Gay Islamic Flag in Sydney Australia & Volunteer for the SGLM .
    Yes i am 100 p;er gay Muslim i am Proud to Muslim

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