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Thursday, May 20, 2010

This Could Be You or Me

Some of you will be aware of this story that has been doing the rounds this week.

Two men, lovers, in Malawi, have been sentenced to 14 years in prison for getting engaged, for publically acknowledging their love for each other and for being public about the fact they are men who love men.

Malawi is an old British colony, like us, and like us they were governed under British laws, and it is under these laws that these men have ben prosecuted. One of the weird things about so many ex-colonies, and old cultures that have rushed to embrace the modern western way of life is how puritanical sexual ideas have taken such strong root in them. When Catholic missionaries got to China in the 16th C they were appalled at how people regarded men having male lovers as not even worth commenting on. China after the revolution became sexually more puritan than the Seventh Day Adventists. We know that in Africa all sorts of different forms of sexuality were seen in the many different cultures there: Today we see a restrictive, and often hypocritical level of adherence to "Christian" morals and compulsory heterosexuality largely underwritten by nutty American Christian fundamentalists.

The strangest part of the hypocrisy I see is the way they use the bible to justify their stance. yet it was the bible that was used to justify both slavery of Africans in general, and aparthied in the old South Africa: God had ordained that Blacks should serve Whites, or that was how they interpreted Genesis 9:25 - 27. I wonder if anyone has reminded them of this fact.

And I feel powerless to do anything meaningful. In the past I have boycotted products from countries I opposed, or written to their ambassador, or taken part in protests, but I really don't know what to do here. I probably will write to someone there, expressing my anger and disgust.

It wasn't that long ago that here in New Zealand I could have been arrested for this sort of thing. Every time I went to bed with a man in the pre-Law reform days I knew I was breaking the law. We've made huge gains, in both legal terms and terms of social acceptance. But what has been achieved can also be lost - don't forget that. Seeing gays as a generally accepted part of the general NZ community is something quite new, and while we take it for granted, there are those who would like to see the same position that the judge in Malawi has taken employed here.

I'd just like us all to stop and think for a moment what it would be like to be in these men's shoes. Imagine their bravery! Imagine their sorrow and despair now at this barbaric and unjust punishment.

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