Throughout history, homosexuals have been among those groups persecuted for their non-conformity with social, political or religious patterns. Deemed to be a threat to society, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons in all five continents have been persecuted, imprisoned, abused and/or tortured by authoritarian regimes, by the Nazis during the Second World War, but also by democratically elected governments. Considered ill, they have been subjected to medical abuse justified as "treatment", often involving particularly cruel practices, both in public and private institutions. Labelled "disposables", they have been targeted in "social cleansing" operations.
Several countries in all parts of the world still maintain legislation criminalising homosexual relations. With punishments ranging from imprisonment to death by crushing, the so called "sodomy laws" continue to regulate sexual behaviour, offering at the same time official grounds for discrimination and violence against lgbt.
However, torture and ill-treatment by state officials is only the tip of the iceberg. Cushioned by official acquiescence, nurtured by cultural or religious norms, hatred against lgbt has resulted in innumerable cases of violence by non-state actors. Whether in the form of harassment, verbal abuse, bodily harm or rape, to name but a few, such violence can occur in the home, in school, at the workplace or in the streets.
Homophobia and hate advocacy reign, in a multi-dimensional and multi-cultural way. Same-sex relations are considered "unChristian", "unAfrican", "unIslamic", or, in more general terms, simply "unnatural". Homosexuals have been blamed as exclusively responsible for the AIDS pandemic, branded paedophiles and corrupters, and even blamed for the September 11th attacks. Political leaders describe them as "worst than pigs and dogs", denying their human identity, while many people think that they have no rights at all.
Many societies view lgbt as sinners or mentally ill, socially deviant or traitors of their culture. Women wanting to exercise control over their own bodies and sexuality constitute a threat to the social order. Men who are attracted to men are seen as renouncing the active and privileged role of the male and are thus labelled traitors of their kind, unworthy of respect. Transgender persons question the traditional view that all human beings must fall irrevocably into one of two gender categories. Any deviation from the established sexual order, what Amnesty International has named the "heterosexual norm", can provoke moral condemnation, social exclusion and violence.
While the persons and the places involved may vary according to each case, the common factors that lie at the heart of all homophobic violence are ignorance and prejudice within society, coupled with institutionalised discrimination and impunity enjoyed by those responsible.
 Zero, Cerrar Heridas y Romper Expedientes, issue 33, November 2001.
 Homosexual relations were prohibited in Germany before WWII (Paragraph 175 of German Penal Code). Hitler extended the relevant law to include homosexual kissing, embracing, and even having homosexual fantasies. An estimated 25,000 people were convicted under it between 1937 and 1939 alone. They were sent to prisons and later concentration camps, most of them in Sachsenhausen. Their sentence also included sterilization, most commonly in the form of castration. In 1942, Hitler extended the punishment for homosexuality to death. Although homosexual prisoners were not shipped en masse to the Auschwitz death camps like so many of the Jewish prisoners, there were still large numbers of gay men executed there along with other non-Jewish prisoners. When the Allies defeated Germany, the political and remaining Jewish prisoners were released from the camps while the common criminals were not released, for obvious reasons. Along with them, homosexual prisoners were kept in captivity for the remainder of their sentence, as Paragraph 175 remained in force in W. Germany until 1969. In December 2000, the German parliament officially apologised to gays and lesbians who were persecuted under the Nazi regime. They also expressed regret for the "harm done to homosexual citizens up to 1969".
Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep, Train to Sachsenhausen, from the RNW website, http://www.rnw.nl/society/html/sachs011025.html, October 25, 2001.
Lambda, GLBT Community Services, Symbols of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Movements-Pink Triangle, from the LAMBDA website, www.lambda.org.
Zero, 150.000 Triángulos Rosas, issue 26, April 2001.
 Amnesty International, Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence: Torture and Ill-treatment Based on Sexual Identity, AI index ACT 40/016/2001, June 22, 2001, p. 35.
 In Afghanistan, for example, under the Taliban regime, in at least five separate instances, men convicted of sodomy have been crushed to death by having walls toppled upon them. There are at least 10 countries in the world where homosexuality can be punished by death.
Source: C. Rothschild, I. Saiz, Sexual Identity and Torture, from the Resist Inc. website, http://www.resistinc.org/newsletter/issues/2001/06/rothschild.html, 2001.
 It is interesting to mention a case based on personal experience. During a session of blood donation in a state-run medical center in Brussels, Belgium, in 1996, the author was asked to fill in a questionnaire with personal information. Among the criteria for exclusion was being a prostitute, a male homosexual or a heterosexual who had regular sexual contact with prostitutes. Heterosexuals with a steady partner were eligible. However, this did not apply to male homosexuals, who were excluded regardless of sexual conduct. When asked by the author to explain the reason for this discrimination, the doctor on duty answered that, although she agreed this was a discriminatory practice, she thought it was necessary. It was considered that homosexuals were more likely to be HIV+ even when they had a steady partner. She explained that, even though all blood was checked before use, there was always the chance that someone had contracted the virus very recently, for which reason it would not be detected. So, according to the policy makers, some groups had to be excluded, "just in case". The issue here is not only that homosexuals were considered as de facto AIDS-prone individuals but also that they were deemed less trustworthy than heterosexuals. Belgian medical institutions were willing to risk receiving contaminated blood by a heterosexual, who could have given inaccurate information about his/her sexual conduct, but not by a homosexual male. Homosexuals were simply considered more "dangerous" than heterosexuals, regardless of sexual conduct, and were thus excluded. Clearly, this is a case of a public institution making an arbitrary connection between careless sexual conduct, AIDS and homosexuality, based on social stereotypes.
 Rev. Jerry Falwell, of the Thomas Road Baptist Church, on the broadcast of the US television program "The 700 Club", on September 13, 2001.
Source: ABC News.com, Falwell Suggests Gays to Blame for Attacks, http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/DailyNews/
WTC_Falwell010914.html, September 14, 2001.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, in 1995, provoked by the country's only lgbt rights organisation's request to participate in the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.
Source: BBC News Online, Homosexual and Hated in Zimbabwe, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/audiovideo/programmes/crossing_continents/
newsid_143000/143169.stm, August 12, 1998.
 Amnesty International, Crimes of Hate, Conspiracy of Silence: Torture and Ill-treatment Based on Sexual Identity, AI index ACT 40/016/2001, June 22, 2001, p. 4.