Homosexuality has been one of the most popular and controversial media topics in recent memory in the United States. Beyond the political arguments regarding gay marriage or service in the military, teen suicides that erupted nationwide at the end of this past summer served as a bold and blaring indicator that the societal issues concerning sexual orientation lie far beyond the D.C. Beltway.
Gays and lesbians worldwide have fought for equal rights, including the right to marry, for decades. Even though the United States has traditionally prided itself on acting as a forerunner of liberty, freedom and innovation, it has clearly failed to create a nation free of institutionalized prejudice.
But it goes further than our adolescent nation. The maltreatment of homosexuals across the globe has come to light of late under a special resolution recently under discussion by members of the United Nations that intends to protect certain minorities that have historically been targeted for genocide.
The purpose of the resolution is to avow the commitment of nations belonging to the UN to protecting the right to life of all people, stressing that member countries should more strictly scrutinize killings made on discriminatory grounds. Amongst the minorities mentioned are street children, human rights defenders, members of particular ethnic or religious sects and homosexuals. That is, until Benin, a West African Nation, proposed to remove sexual minorities from the resolution on behalf of the UN’s African Group.
The amendment to remove sexual minorities as a protected minority group passed by a narrow vote, with 79 for, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent. The vote is nothing more than a cry for help for people worldwide that are oppressed or killed for their sexual orientation, whether it is for a “social cleansing” campaign, from police violence or from biased legislation.
The core of the problem lies in several places. For one, many countries in the Middle East and Africa have laws that specifically target homosexuals. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has famously claimed that Iran has no gays, and Uganda recently examined a bill before Parliament that considers the death penalty for individuals engaging in gay sex.
The African example here is an even more interesting and complicated example than the typically conservative Middle Eastern country.
Until the new bill was proposed, the penalty for gay sex was jail time in Uganda. Not only were the parties involved vulnerable to serving time, but also anyone who witnessed the crime. And U.S. evangelical groups supported the bill, determined to eliminate or “cure” homosexuality worldwide.
It is unsurprising that the UN would fall at the whim of an unorganized group of homophobic nations, the majority of which are African and Middle Eastern. The international body is infamous for restraining itself until crisis erupts. Even though it was created to promote a more humane world, we have yet to see the end of genocide.
Predictably, many countries did not even have the gusto to pick a side and vote for or against the amendment.
The close-mindedness with which homosexuality is perceived in modern day is a testament to the evolution of society since the ancient world. In the years before Christianity ruled the earth, men and women had sexual freedom. The classical years of Ancient Greece, about the fifth or fourth century B.C., saw many prodigious men, including Herodotus and Plato, engaging in same-sex love.
The freedom from sexual orientation as a social identifier no longer exists, and it is obvious now more than ever that sexuality is the crisis of our generation. The battle against homophobia is as important as our past struggles with racism or misogyny — it needs to be an outright priority.