Monday, November 03, 2014
Today the world hangs in the balanced (I do not think that is an exaggeration) with regard to the legal position of same-sex conduct.
Medieval and early modern Europe had inherited the repressive approach stemming from the Bible and enshrined by Theodosius and his successors in the late Roman Empire: sodomy, so called, must be severely repressed. With unfortunate ramifications, this approach was reinforced by Henry VIII in his anti buggery law of 1537.
In 1791, however, the French National Assembly struck down the feudal sodomy laws in that country, a wise step reaffirmed by the Code Napoleon. French armies secured, in effect, the sodomy exemption in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and French Switzerland. Most of the rest of Europe, including the UK remained unreformed. Still the beneficent effects of the Code spread to Latin America, and also to such distant countries as Ottoman Turkey and Japan.
But the repressive legacy of Britain also spread, notably to the Caribbean and to British India. In the US we have only recently freed ourselves from this malign legacy. Sadly, the repressive torch (if that is the right term) of repression has been taken up by Muslim-majority countries. Colonial French West Africa, once freed of the scourge because of the Code, has been overtaken by it, because of Islamic influence and also the mistaken notion that same-sex love is a "Western imposition."
I wish I could say that a favorable outcome of this Manichaean struggle was assured, but it is not.