Legacy of Colonial Rule: Anti-Gay Laws


By: Falana Fray, Freelance Writer

antigay-any-questions.jpgWhen Britain granted its former colonies in the Caribbean and Africa independence from its grip of colonial rule, they left behind a legacy of penal codes that many free independent countries preserved and embraced as their own code of conduct. Today, they are considered outdated and being blamed for justifying discrimination against homosexuals. However, some countries are referring to the anti-sodomy laws, based on Christian beliefs, to take aim at requests for gay-marriages by gay activist groups.

In Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, Gambia, Nigeria, India, Singapore and Sri Lanka, with the exception of South Africa, colonial-era sodomy laws are still in place and forbids "the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or an animal." If convicted, perpetrators "shall be liable to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for a term not exceeding 10 years", as outlined in The Offense Against the Person Act, or The English Act of 1861. Coincidentally, Britain has since amended the Act and repealed Section 61 and 62, which criminalize homosexuality.

Jamaica Refuses To "Bow To Gays"

In a recent interview with Stephan Sackur on BBC's Hardtalk, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding made headlines and created sensation with his statement that there is no room in his cabinet for gays.

"Do you not have a duty to consider people on their merits — for cabinet positions, indeed in any part of government?," asked Sackur.

"A prime minister must decide what he feels would represent to the Jamaican people a cabinet of ministers who will be able to discharge their function without fear, without favour, without intimidation... Jamaica is not going to allow values to be imposed on it from outside," said Golding.

He also voiced his opposition to same sex marriages in a press briefing and declared, "As far as this prime minister is concerned, marriage means a union sanctified and endorsed by law between a man and a woman. And I don't want to speak with any ambiguity about where this yah prime minister rest."

Golding will not "bow to gays" and refuses to repeal the country's buggery laws, despite pressure from international human rights groups and gay rights lobbyists. "There is a road down which I'm not going to allow this country to go under my leadership," said Prime Minister Golding. "Once we embark on that expressway I am not certain at what point we are going to get off."

But, Jamaica is not the only former British colony refusing to repeal, and defends its anti-gay laws handed down by Britain in the 19th century.

Anti-Sodomy Laws In Former British Colonies

In India, a movement led by Naz Foundation Indian Trust, an activist group, is challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in the Delhi High Court. The piece of legislation was drafted in 1860 by Lord Macualay and introduced during British rule in India. The Section 377 is also commonly referred to as the 'Anti-sodomy Law'. So far, the response of the Indian government has been that homosexuality cannot be legalized as the society disapproves of such behavior and "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment."

In Africa, the number of articles varies, like in Zambia, Nigeria, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, but the wording is identical: "any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature is guilty of an offense as is liable to life imprisonment."

The Gambian President Jammeh: "Homosexuality Will Not Be Tolerated In This Country"

Speaking at a political rally on May 15, during his "Dialogue With The People Tour," Gambian President Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh gave homosexuals and criminals 24 hours to leave the country or face death in an effort to rid The Gambia of "disgraceful" behavior. Promising "stricter laws than Iran," which follows the Sharia, a body of Islamic religious law based on the Qur'an, the president warned anyone harbouring these "bad elements" to kick them out before dispatching security forces to conduct a mass patrol in an effort to weed out gays and lesbians.

"Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges these kinds of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful. We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country!"

On the other hand, President Jammeh welcomes foreigners in The Gambia, but declared gays will not be accommodated or tolerated because of their "sinful and immoral acts."

"Despite all democracies, [homosexuality] is a democracy that we will not be accept in this country. A man marries a woman. That is what we know and that is what is in the Qur'an. If you don't believe in that and you are in this country, you are in the wrong place," he posited. "Homosexuality will not be tolerated in this country."