Gay Persecution Seen Rising Around the World
Reuters, July 5, 2004
By Kate Kelland
LONDON—Gay Pride marches are
mainstream in some countries and gay politicians, actors and pop stars are out
and proud—but homophobia is growing across the world with increasing numbers
of countries making it punishable by death.
A new book published by human rights group Amnesty
International says despite widespread acceptance of gays and lesbians in some
countries, violent persecution of homosexuals is on the rise and has reached
“epidemic” levels in others.
“Lesbian and gay people who form or join organisations,
be they political or social, are being violently persecuted in many parts of
the world where before they might have been unnoticed,” writes the book’s
British author Vanessa Baird.
She singles out Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, El Salvador
and Latin America in particular, where she says “the targeting and killing
of transgender people has become an epidemic on streets.”
The book, “Sex, Love and Homophobia,” offers an
overview of the experiences of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the
world and gives a snapshot of their status in various societies today.
One British gay man interviewed describes how he was
subjected to “aversion therapy” as a teenager in the 1960s because his
mother could not accept her son was gay.
“I was locked up alone in a mental institution for 72
hours with supposedly gay pornography and given drugs to make me vomit and
become incontinent,” he said. “They said the next part of the treatment
was to apply electrodes to my genitals. After three days I begged to be let
In the United States, Baird notes an increasing
polarisation of attitudes. “While San Francisco boasts the largest openly
gay community of any city in the world, anti-homosexual movements in Kansas,
Ohio and Colorado advocate as a ‘Christian duty’ the rejection, and in
some cases even killing, of gay people.”
“And this is not all just a small group of nutters in
the mid-West,” she told Reuters. “This kind of evangelism is growing, and
unfortunately a substantial part of it is homophobic and says homosexuality is
a sin or a disease.”
Baird’s book also focuses on countries where
homosexuality is punishable by death—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan,
Mauritania, Sudan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and northern
provinces of Nigeria.
Baird quotes Iran’s 1991 Islamic penal law, which
states “sodomy is a crime” and “punishment is death if the participants
are adults, of sound mind and consenting.”
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu uses a foreword to
the book to condemn homophobia as “every bit as unjust as that crime against
“I could not have fought against the discrimination of
apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination homosexuals endure,”
South Africa became the first country in the world in
1996 to include a clause in its constitution to guarantee freedom from
discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.