In 2017, 23 active-duty soldiers were charged by the military authorities. Their alleged crime? Consensual same-sex sexual activity.
While there is no law criminalizing same-sex sexual activity between civilians in South Korea, Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity between men. Those convicted can be sentenced to up to two years in prison under an “indecent acts” clause. The clause, dating back to 1962, has been used to charge soldiers engaging in sexual acts on and off base, including in the privacy of their own homes.
Criminalization of same-sex consensual sexual activity – and its enforcement through prosecution and sentencing – is a serious human rights violation. This criminalization creates and perpetuates a toxic environment where it is extremely difficult for LGBTI soldiers who do not conform to existing gender norms to fulfil military service free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence at the hands of their commanding officers and their peers. Many hide their sexual orientation or gender identity for fear of being “outed” and harassed and some are isolated from their units and even forcibly hospitalized.
South Korea must abolish this outdated and discriminatory law and ensure that everyone including LGBTI individuals can serve in the military free from discrimination, abuse and fear.
- Take legislative action to repeal Article 92-6 of the Military Criminal Act, which prohibits and punishes consensual same-sex sexual activity in the military; and
- Reinforce measures to prohibit and eliminate abuse and discrimination against LGBTI individuals in the military and ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into all allegations of such abuse and discrimination.