Friday 25 January 2013

History of Homosexuality (Part IV)

Let me premise this article with the statement that I am a heterosexual and happily married for the past 36 years with two daughters and five grandchildren.

This article is about some countries that forbid homosexuality and severely punish those who participate in homosexual acts.


Under the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last monarch of the Pahlavi Dynasty, homosexuality was tolerated, even to the point of allowing news coverage of a same-sex wedding. In the late 1970s, some Iranians even began to talk about starting up a gay rights organization, similar to the Gay Liberation movement. Until the revolution, there were some night clubs in which gay behavior was tolerated. During the Shah's time, however, homosexuality was still officially taboo everywhere in Iran.  

I remember when the Shah of Iran left Iran for good on January 16, 1979 and when Islamic nationalist Ayatollahh Koomeini returned to Iran from France on February 1, of that same year.  It was soon after his arrival that homosexuals began feeling the full brunt of the prejudices of Iranians about homosexuals in their midst.

I remember seeing published pictures of homosexuals being executed by firing squads and others being hanged soon after Koomeini’s arrival. Nowadays, the executions are generally done by hangings which are generally done in public although some hangings are carried out in secret in the notorious Karoun prison in Tehran. Those who are hanged in public are generally hoisted up by a crane.  

The fact that the two genders are strictly segregated in Iran increases the tendency for same-sex acts among the youth.  It is a phenomenon that is also similarly known in single gender prisons. Indeed this phenomenon happens throughout highly segregated societies in the Middle East and North Africa.

In September 2011, three men were hanged for committing forbidden acts against religion. They were convicted of unlawful acts against Sharia law, based on the articles of 108 and 110 of the Iranian Islamic penal code. Article 108 reads: Sodomy is sexual intercourse between men. (which includes oral and/or anal sex) Article 110 says: Punishment for sodomy is killing.  The Sharia judge decides on the method of execution.

Iranian prosecutors have previously presented such cases before the courts as rape in order to make the executions more acceptable and to avoid too much international attention about the execution of homosexuals. It is believed however that the execution of the three men is the first time for many years that any Iranians have been given death sentences on the sole basis of them being homosexuals. The executions for sodomy (which they were accused of) were among the rare cases that followed where the Iranian authorities admitted to having executed men convicted of homosexual acts.

The issue of the death penalty for same-sex acts is further compounded by the fact that the Iranian legal code does not differentiate between rape and homosexual acts.

On September 24, 2007, while speaking at Columbia University, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, in answer to the question “Iranian women are now denied basic human rights and your government has imposed draconian punishments including execution on Iranian citizens who are homosexuals. Why are you doing those things?” The president replied, “We don't have homosexuals, like in your country. I don't know who told you that.”  An aide later said that the president was misquoted and actually said “Compared to American society, we don't have many homosexuals.” The aide further clarified added that the president also said “Because of historical, religious and cultural differences, homosexuality is less common in Iran and the Islamic world than in the West.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech on September 26, 2012 during his visit to New York before the UN general assembly, “We don't have homosexuals in Iran.” That is about as ridiculous as saying that they don’t have sand flies in the deserts of Iran. But then he went on continuing to show his ignorance by saying, “No one will be punished for homosexuality in the country.”

In August 2010, a 16-year-old Iranian, Ebrahim Hamidi was arrested for sodomy and at age 18, he faced execution on charges of sodomy on the basis of judge's knowledge which is a legal loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where there is no conclusive evidence against the accused. Hamadi was also tried without any legal representation. Hamidi was temporarily reprieved after his case drew widespread international attention. By the way, he was not a homosexual. As of the time this article is presented to you, he is still in prison waiting for either his release or his execution. 

What I find rather amusing is that if President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was telling the truth when he told the members of the UN General Assembly that Iran has no homosexuals in his country, then why is Hamidi still in prison? Is it possible that Ahmadinejad lied?

Four men identified by the Human Rights Activist News Agency in Iran as Saadat Arefi, Vahid Akbari, Javid Akbari and Houshmand Akbari were sentenced to be hanged after their guilty verdict was approved in 2012 by high court judges.

Previously, sodomy for men was punishable by death for all individuals involved in consensual sexual intercourse, but under the new amendments the person who played an active role will be flogged 100 times if the sex was consensual and he was not married, but the one who played a passive role will still be put to death regardless of his marital status.

Under the new code, the death sentence has been removed for juveniles only in crimes whose punishment can be administered at the discretion of the judge (such as drug offences). Under the same law, however, a death sentence may still be applied for a juvenile if he or she has committed crimes that are considered to be ‘claims of God’ and therefore have mandatory sentences of death for such crimes as sodomy, rape, theft, fornication, apostasy and consumption of alcohol for the third time.


There is no legal protection against discrimination in Nigeria — a largely conservative country of more than 170 million people that is split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south. 

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Nigeria. The maximum punishment in the twelve northern states that have adopted Shari’a law is death by stoning if the person is married or was previously married or if the adult commits sodomy with a person under age.  In December 2011,  gay man in northern Nigeria was sentenced to death by stoning after it was alleged he had sex with an underage male. That law applies to all Muslims and to those who have voluntarily consented to application of the Shari’a courts. In southern Nigeria and under the secular criminal laws of northern Nigeria, the maximum punishment for same-sex sexual activity is 14 years' imprisonment. Legislation is still pending to criminalize  same-sex marriage throughout the country.

According to the 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project, 97 percent of Nigerian residents believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept, which was the second-highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed.

In the northern states of Nigeria of Gombe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara, a woman who commits the offence of lesbianism will be punished with caning which may extend to fifty lashes and in addition be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may extend to six months.

A person who commits the offence of gross indecency will be punished with caning which may extend to forty lashes and may be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and may also be liable to fine.

In the northern state of Kaduna, a person commits an act of gross indecency "in public, exposure of nakedness in public and other related acts of similar nature capable of corrupting public morals". In the states of Kano and Katsina, a person commits an act of gross indecency by way of kissing in public, exposure of nakedness in public and other related acts of similar nature in order to corrupt public morals. In the state of Gombe, a person commits an act of gross indecency by committing any sexual offence against the normal or usual standards of behaviour. I guess that means sodomy is out.
Imagine saying goodbye to your wife at a bus depot by kissing her and then being arrested, convicted and sentenced to a year in a prison for that so-called indiscretion because you supposedly corrupted public morals.

In the northern state of Bormo, a man or woman who engages in sexual intercourse with another person of the same gender shall upon conviction be punished with death.

In the state of Kano, a person who being a male gender who acts, behaves or dresses in a manner which imitates the behavioral attitude of women shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, be sentenced to one year imprisonment.

In November 2011, Nigeria’s Senate voted to criminalize gay marriages, by instituting prison terms for violations in a nation where gays and lesbians already face discrimination and abuse. Under the new law, same-sex couples who marry could face up to 14 years in jail and witnesses or anyone who helps such couples marry could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Saudi Arabia 

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and is punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment or death.

Nine young Saudi men have each been sentenced to more than 2,000 lashes and at least five years in prison for deviant sexual behavior.  A court in the western city of Qunfuda sentenced five of the men to six years in prison and 2,600 lashes. The men were flogged 52 times in 50 sessions. The four other defendants were sentenced to five years and 2,400 lashes. They were flogged 48 times in 50 sessions. There was a pause of 15 days between each of the flogging sessions.

Police started tailing the nine men after reports that they were acting strangely. The police found that men were dressing in women’s clothes and engaging in deviant sexual behavior with each other. The nine men confessed to the charges. However, I am not convinced that the confessions weren’t brought about by undue pressure. Their trials were certainly farces since they didn’t have any lawyers representing them.

If you think that many lashes given to those nine men were gross, consider what happened to two men in Saudi Arabia who were sentenced to be flogged. They were sentenced to 7000 lashes each in public after being convicted of sodomyCan they survive that many lashes of a whip? They can if it is done with a wet noodle.  

More than 100 men in Saudi Arabia were sentenced to imprisonment and flogging after being arrested for “deviant sexual behaviour”. The men were arrested for dancing and behaving like women at a private party in a rented hall, according to Al-Wifaq, a government-affiliated Saudi newspaper. The paper claimed the men were attending a gay wedding.

“Homosexuality is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes.... It is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins.... The punishment for homosexuality is death. Both the active and passive participants are to be killed whether or not they have previously had sexual intercourse in the context of a legal marriage.... Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that the perpetrator is to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place.”

Where do you think you would find those writings in Saudi Arabia? It is in the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Education text books for Islamic Studies for the 2007-2008 Academic year.

In 1980, I was flying to Venezuela to give a speech on human rights.  On the plane was a Saudi Arabian official who was also attending the UN conference I was attending. I asked him if his country still tortured their prisoners. He denied that it was being done. I reminded him that recently a prisoner in his country was flogged. He replied, “But that wasn’t torture. It was punishment.” Trying not to laugh in his face at that precise moment was like trying not to pee when your bladder is about to burst. Many years ago, I was invited to go to Saudi Arabia to assist a Canadian architectural firm in designing the security measures of a new University being built in Saudi Arabia. I refused the offer. There was no way I would ever set foot in a country where it is governed by archaic royal decrees and where human rights are flogged as many times as their criminals are.

History of Homosexuality (Part V) will be the next article in which I will tell my readers of three more countries that abuse homosexuals.

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