Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lapidation (and Other Crimes Against Humanity)

A couple of weeks ago I noticed an article on the internet news about two Nigerian men who were to be punished for their homosexual activities. Since it was a French news channel, I had some problem understanding what the punishment was. It was referred to in French as 'lapidation'.

Actually, as a geologist and someone who studied Latin for seven years I should have understood very well what this word meant, and perhaps, if I'd thought about the word a bit longer instead of going straight to a French dictionary and looking it up, I might have figured it out for myself. Lapidation means 'stoning to death'.

I was shocked. Surely people are not still being stoned to death in this world? Particularly for what would be considered, in Europe, as a leisure pursuit. The case is still ongoing, with the men held in detention and awaiting trial.

When I researched further, I discovered that homosexuality remains illegal in more than 90 countries. It is punishable by death in 9 of them: Nigeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Pakistan. The men in Nigeria are being tried before a Muslim court and it is countries dominated by the Muslim religion where this ferocious homophobia seems to still have a hold on people. Two Iranian teenagers were put to death by hanging in Iran on 19 July 2005, one of them under the age of 18. Apparently, no government anywhere in the world announced its indignation. If you read the article you will see that many thousands of people have been put to death during the last 26 years of clerical rule. It is quite shocking.

The punishment of stoning does not exist simply for homosexual practices, but is also applied against women who have had an extramarital affair or who have been found guilty of prostitution. In these cases it is the women who takes the blame, making it a blatantly sexist verdict.

Being homosexual is the ultimate statement of freedom. It is freedom even from the biological determinism which says that you have to find a member of the opposite sex, settle down and have children. These freedoms have allowed gay men and women to become some of the greatest thinkers and explorers of our age. I believe it is a choice that we all have in ourselves to make. Eugene Marais, the South African naturalist, mentions this point in his book written in the 1930s called: "The Soul of the White Ant" when talking about the baboons he studied in South Africa and the difference between the psyche of a baboon and that of a lower mammal such as a dog. He says:

"We see that nature has done two things for the baboon: she has given him a psyche which is able to acquire individual causal memories; and secondly she has done away with his inherited race memory. The baboon is the transition point in the animal world. He has advanced so far that in about fifty per cent of cases there is no inherited orientation of the sexual instinct, the instinct which is the strongest inherited instinct of all. In man we find no inherited orientation of this instinct at all. Sexual desire may awaken, but the orientation must be learnt in both sexes. How has this extra-ordinary change in natural behaviour taken place?"

The point I want to make by referring to this article, is that there is nothing 'unnatural' about being gay. It is a freedom nature has given to us related to our own line of evolution. If people want to be gay, they should have the right to be, and what is more, that right should be defended. I believe that anyone who goes against an individual's will to be gay is pitting themselves against nature. We should, in fact, be proud of our own evolutionary lineage that has brought us to the point where this freedom is possible, and recognise that humanity would not be what it is without these freedoms. In fact, the photo at the top of the page shows how shocking humanity can be without these freedoms.

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