Monday, October 10, 2011

Legislating homosexuality


At the beginning of 2011, about one hundred pictures of Ugandan activists known to be homosexual were published in a local tabloid. These pictures included the names and home addresses of these people along with the headline “Hang them”. Some days later, the homosexual activist David Kato was murdered and he was the first of a long list. Some months before that, the international community pressured the Ugandan parliament to modify a new bill about homosexual illegality so that “repeat offenders” were not punished with the death penalty but just sentenced to life imprisonment. Uganda is indeed an extreme case of homosexuality persecution but it is in no way an isolated case. There are many countries in the world with laws somehow condemning homosexuality and there are very few countries with laws putting homosexuality on a level with heterosexuality in terms of legal rights. Let’s take a look at it.
Talking about LGBT rights (that is, the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons) was a taboo at the UN Assembly until 2008, when the UN Statement about sexual orientation and gender identity was approved, condemning violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization because of sexual orientation. But it was just a hollow victory because there were only 66 out of 192 UN countries in favour (including 39 European countries). On top of that, immediately afterwards, there was another statement opposing it, with the signature of 57 countries (plus the Vatican support, which is not a UN member but a permanent observer) on the absurd basis that legislating homosexuality means legitimizing pederasty. Today, neither of those two statements has been officially adopted as resolution and the Assembly is not likely to agree on this issue soon.
Meanwhile, every country has its own rules. In terms of punishments, 7 countries allow the death penalty against homosexuality (Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Arab Emirates, Yemen and Somaliland), plus the 12 states in Nigeria which have adopted the Islamic law. However, this does not mean that the rest of countries put homosexuality on a level with heterosexuality: only 11 countries do, at least legally speaking (and only 8 put homosexual matrimony on a level with heterosexual matrimony). In the rest of the countries, homosexuals can be sentenced to imprisonment or fined or they are denied access to military forces or public administrations. Only 56 countries (that is, a quarter of the total) have laws in place against homophobia.
Moreover, many countries with favourable or at least non discriminatory laws turn a blind eye when the LGBT community is subject to some kind of abuse. And this is so because such favourable laws are not supported by the whole society. Even in quite an open country such as Spain, homophobes and opponents to equality laws are many, as seen during the demonstrations against gay marriage. In the US, where there have been strong fights for recognition of LGBT rights, 18 states still have laws against homosexuality and some of them are quite recent: 13 states explicitly banned homosexual matrimony or civil union during 2004 primary campaign and, at present, homosexual matrimony is only allowed in 6 of the 50 US states.
One of the major obstacles to be faced by the LGBT community is that many people (often on the grounds of their religion) consider that homosexuality is unnatural so it should not be accepted or promoted. Needless to say, this argument is utterly senseless because flying or sailing are truly unnatural in humans but we all accept it and even protect it by law, as we have exclusive regulations for aviation and navigation.
If we want to end up with discrimination, first we should end up with this absurd idea of natural and unnatural acts. Ethologists estimate that about 1,500 animal species exhibit homosexual behaviour, but only one species (humans) exhibit homophobic behaviour, so the question is obvious: what is more unnatural?

Sources:

  1. David Kato’s murder, an activist who was pushed to the fore together with 100 people by a Ugandan homophobic tabloid: http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/01/27/uganda-promptly-investigate-killing-prominent-lgbt-activist
  2. Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uganda_Anti-Homosexuality_Bill
  3. LGBT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT
  4. UN Statement about sexual orientation and gender identity: http://ilga.org/ilga/en/article/1211
  5. All the information about regulations is taken from SodomyLaws website, from the LGBT international association ILGA and from some newspapers: http://www.sodomylaws.org  and http://ilga.org/ilga/en/index.html
  6. Post about animal homosexuality: http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/10/23/20718.aspx


 

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