BAH, HUM-BUGGERY

How The UK Ruined Gay Sex For Everyone

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Earlier today, India restored a ban on gay sex that had been in place — with the exception of a four year period during which it was unconstitutional — since 1861, when it was a colony of ye goode olde England. Like the child of a broken home, India was left with the psychological scars of British colonial rule, namely its outmoded buggery laws, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But India is just one of many countries still haunted by the spectre of Section 377, as the UK effectively exported homophobia to the rest of the world with its ruthless imperialism.

So here’s a quick history of how the United Kingdom ruined gay sex for the entire world.

 

The UK

The Buggery Act 1533, fancily known as “An Acte for the punysshement of the vice of Buggerie,” was passed by that pillar of moral rectitude, King Henry VIII — during one of his six marriages — and was England’s first civil sodomy law. The Act was repealed by Queen Mary in 1853, only to be restored 10 years later by Queen Elizabeth I.

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The Act was again repealed and replaced in 1828, with buggery remaining a capital offense in England and Wales until 1861. Homosexuality was still criminalized, however, to which noted wit and sodomite Oscar Wilde can attest; his life and reputation were famously ruined for committing acts of “gross indecency” in 1895. UK Parliament finally repealed all  buggery laws in 1967, though that didn’t stop Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher from pushing for the passage of Section 28 in 1988, prohibiting the “promotion” of homosexuality.

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That was finally repealed in 2003. Then earlier this year, Her Royal BIC Queen Elizabeth II made an historic statement supporting LGBT rights, as part of a campaign to finally address civil rights abuses in former colonies. And it only took 500 years.

South Asia, the Pacific & the Middle East

According to a 66-page report on the origins of sodomy laws in British colonialism from Human Rights Watch, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was “the first colonial ‘sodomy law’ integrated into a penal code and it became a model anti-sodomy law for countries…stretched across Asia, the Pacific islands, and Africa almost everywhere the British imperial flag flew.” And that was a lot of places:

In Asia and the Pacific, colonies and countries that inherited versions of that British law were: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Western Samoa.

Of these 21 territories, only New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, and Fiji have fully decriminalized sodomy, with New Zealand and Australia, in particular, embracing equal rights.

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UPDATE: Okay, maybe not so much Australia.

Meanwhile, many are quick to blame Islam/Sharia law on homophobia in the Middle East, but the British certainly didn’t help matters by introducing Section 377 to Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates, among other areas in the region.

Africa

The continent of Africa has been systematically raped and pillaged by numerous Europe powers over the centuries, though the UK exerted the most influence. Of the some 55 countries in Africa, 38 outlaw homosexuality or homosexual acts. Of those 38, approximately 18 are former British colonies: Burundi, Sudan, Lesotho, Botswana, Kenya, Somalia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Gambia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania and, sadly, even Cameroooooooooon.

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I know, Bebe, I find it shocking too. South Africa, also a former British colony, is the only country in Africa to to provide full equal rights to LGBT people, thanks in part to the late Nelson Mandela; yet other countries seem determined to harshen their anti-gay laws, including Uganda and Nigeria.

The West Indies

In the West, the most glaring examples of the impact of British colonial buggery laws exist in the Caribbean, especially Jamaica — infamously dubbed by Time magazine as the “most homophobic place on Earth” in 2006. Jamaica is one of 11 Caribbean nations — eight of which are former British colonies — where homosexual acts remain illegal and LGBT people there live in fear of homophobic and transphobic violence. This, however, totally fine:

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Though technically part of South America, Guyana, a British colony for over 200 years until 1966, prescribes life imprisonment for buggery.

The U.S.

While still a British colony, what became known as America sentenced its first man to death for sodomy in 1625. Sea captain Richard Cornish was tried and hanged in Virginia after he was accused of “forcibly sodomizing” a teenaged cabin boy. Two oustpoken critics of Cornish’s trial received their own harsh punishments, including the loss of their ears.

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And in Massachusetts in 1629, five ”beastly Sodomiticall boys” were sent back to England for execution. Founding father Thomas Jefferson suggested a more lenient punishment for sodomy in 1778 — castration — but the Virginia Legislature wasn’t having any of that liberal hippie talk and retained the death penalty. Sodomy laws thus remained on the books in 14 states until the landmark Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.

So there we have it — across six centuries and six continents, the United Kingdom managed to ruin gay sex for everyone nearly everywhere by making private affairs a public matter. India is only the latest country to grapple with this complicated and complex history, trying to reconcile its past as a British colony with the present in a very modern and much more tolerant world. Well, there’s always the next 500 years to get it right.