Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 1998

Breaking The Silence: Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation, published by Amnesty International UK

reviewed by Derek Lennard

This is an important book documenting atrocities against gay men, lesbians, transvestites and transsexuals throughout the world. Its title has an unintentional touch of irony about it as Amnesty International has only relatively recently agreed to organise campaigns on the basis of persecution due to sexual orientation. It is a tribute to those within the organisation (of all sexual orientations) who fought for the silence to be broken within Amnesty itself. As a result of their efforts there now exists a thriving Amnesty International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Network.

The atrocities, of course, make grim reading. We learn of extrajudicial executions and “disappearances”, arbitrary killings by armed opposition groups, torture and ill-treatment, rape and sexual abuse, forced medical treatment, prisoners of conscience detained for the advocacy of homosexual rights, etc.

As you would no doubt expect, organised religion plays a major role in these atrocities. In Iran, for example, if a woman is convicted four times for “mosahegeh” (lesbianism), she faces the death penalty.

You’ll no doubt be reassured to learn that this lesbianism must be proved by the testimony of “four righteous men who might have observed it”. A document published by Teheran University gives us a charming insight into these disgusting practices: “For homosexual men or women, Islam has prescribed the most severe punishments ... After it has been proved on the basis of Sharia, they should seize him, they should keep him standing, they should split him in two with a sword, they should either cut off his head or they should split him from the head ... He will fall down ... After he is dead, they should bring logs, make a fire and place the corpse on the top, set fire to it and burn it, or it should be taken to a mountain and thrown down.” It goes on in this sickening manner proving that these ‘wise’ old religious men are truly a bunch of sadistic perverts.

Meanwhile, just in case you thought such persecution is exclusive to Muslim countries like Iran, guess in which country the following outrage occurred. “An eighteen-year-old woman standing trial for murder has her sexuality widely publicised in the media and presented to the jury in an inflammatory manner. Her lawyers’ request for a change of venue is denied. A psychologist, who has never interviewed the defendant, testifies that she is a bisexual sadist prone to violent acts. She is sentenced to death.” This happened in “the land of the free”, the USA, in which the relationship between religion and the judicial system may not be as overt as it is in Iran, but the increasing influence of the loony religious right must surely create the atmosphere in which such disgusting events can occur.

On a much more positive and upbeat note, this well-documented book gives a list of gay and lesbian organisations around the world working to put an end to the oppression of sexual minorities. It offers specific guidelines for governments serious about protecting the rights of sexual minorities.

The high profile that Amnesty International with all its clout and reputation is giving to these campaigns must be welcomed.

After reading this book, it is impossible to argue with any credibility that gay issues should not be political or not to feel contempt for those gays who ignore the suffering of their fellows and seek only to enjoy themselves.

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Created : Sunday, 2000-01-09 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :