Last edited: February 14, 2005

Gays Evoke Violent Reactions in US

Hindustan Times, October 15, 2000

By K S Dakshina Murthy

Bangalore — Contrary to popular perception, several states in the United States are extremely restrictive in its treatment of homosexuals. Large parts of Asia and Western Europe in comparison offer a bigger space for "differently oriented" sexual behaviour.

Making these observations in an exclusive interview to The Hindustan Times here, a senior official of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Daniel Lee said 18 states in the US still had laws that criminalised homosexual behaviour. Lee, who is the Asia-Pacific program officer of the San Francisco-based commission said homophobia (hatred of gays and lesbians) was particularly high in US.

In Boston, for instance, every year an average of 250 gays get bashed up. According to him, capitalism in the US had affected fundamental relations between individuals.

There are innumerable social taboos in the US against relationship between the same sex.

"If a man happens to see another in the eye in a particular way, it can evoke violent reactions," he said. There was a "great deal of hypocrisy" in the way the US on the one hand attempted to project itself as a liberal society and on the other was extremely restrictive towards human relationships of a particular kind, he said.

According to him, what was more dangerous was that the Christian religious right in the US was exporting homophobia to other parts of the world. "They send so-called ministers who promise to convert people with homosexual behaviour" which we, in the commission see as a fundamental human right of an individual.

Interestingly, Mr. Lee said he found India offering wide space to relationship between people of the same sex. Unfortunately, the laws in the country were outdated and penalised persons who indulged in "unnatural" sexual behaviour. According to Mr. Lee, this was the adverse influence of Christian morality on Indian laws, and needed to be changed. The homophobic laws are clearly a Western import as traditional Indian culture offered space for gays and lesbians, as seen in ancient scriptures, carvings and other works of art, he said.

Mr. Lee, who has traveled almost all over the world in his stint with the commission said the countries that were most relaxed on the issue were Thailand and Japan, where the social scene for gays was "thriving". In Tokyo, for example, there were at least 300 gay bars and there was no mention of homosexual behaviour in law. He conceded that discrimination was present, but only in subtle ways.

In mainland China, the scene for gays was similar to India but there the concept of projecting "human rights" to protect homosexual behaviour was fraught with danger as the government there was suspicious of anything and everything to do with "human rights".

The Scandinavian countries, South Africa, Fiji besides Australia and New Zealand were perhaps the most advanced in terms of laws to protect individual sexual behaviour.

In this context, Mr. Lee said his organisation was at the moment linking up with gay and lesbian organisations around the world, including in Muslim and Arab countries, to pressure the various governments into relaxing restrictive laws governing sexual behaviour. These laws are openly violative of basic human rights and we are carrying on a campaign around the world against them, Mr. Lee said.

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