From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as sex crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but is typically understood by courts to include any sexual act which does not lead to procreation. Furthermore, Sodomy has many synonyms: buggery, crime against nature, unnatural act, deviant sexual intercourse. It also has a range of similar euphemisms.
The Middle Assyrian Law Codes (1075 BC) state: If a man have intercourse with his brother-in-arms, they shall turn him into a eunuch. This is the earliest known law condemning the act of male to male intercourse in the military. The Lex Scantinia was written by the Romans. It includes laws restricting homosexual acts, but not banning the behavior. Utilizing male slaves as homosexual sex objects was not outlawed as long as the slave was on the receiving end.
Most anti-sodomy laws in Western countries originated from a Judeo-Christian world-view established from the Bible. The Biblical book of Leviticus says: "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood [shall be] upon them." The New Testament has been said to condemn Sodomy; the biblical book of Romans says, "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen 26 for this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error 28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." (Rom. 1:24-2:1).
Following Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, the crime of sodomy has often been defined only as the abominable and detestable crime against nature, or some variation of the phrase. This language led to widely varying rulings about what specific acts were encompassed by its prohibition.
After the publishing of the Wolfenden report in the UK, which asserted that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence", many western governments, including the United States, have repealed laws specifically against homosexual acts while retaining sodomy laws. In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that state laws criminalizing private, non-commercial sexual activity between consenting adults at home on the grounds of morality are unconstitutional since there is insufficient justification for intruding into people's liberty and privacy.
All of Europe, North America, Latin America and South America have recently abolished sodomy laws (except for; Belize, Guyana and along with several Caribbean islands; including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago). This trend among Western nations has not been followed in all other regions of the world (Africa, some parts of Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean Islands), where sodomy often remains a serious crime. Homosexual acts remain punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, some parts of Nigeria and Somalia. Prison for life in; Barbados (Not enforced for in private - Under review) Bangladesh, Guyana, Maldives, Myanmar/Burma, Pakistan, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.
In Asia, there have never been Western-style Sodomy laws in People's Republic of China, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, or Vietnam; whilst Sodomy laws have been repealed in Japan, Kazakhstan, The Philippines, Thailand, and India. Other discriminatory measures may exist against homosexuals in these countries.
- LGBT rights by country
- Timeline of LGBT history in Britain
- Sexual consent in law
- Societal attitudes towards homosexuality
- Utrecht sodomy trials