November 9, 2022
When you think of the United States, what comes to mind? For many people, the US is a beacon of hope and progress. A land of opportunity where anyone can achieve their dreams, no matter who they are or where they come from. And while that is true to an extent, there is still a long way to go before the US can truly be called a progressive country. Case in point: the existence of anti-sodomy laws.
What are Anti-Sodomy Laws?
Anti-sodomy laws criminalize anal and oral sex, even though these acts are consensual and between two adults. In some states, these laws only apply to homosexual relations, while in others, they apply to heterosexual relations as well. Either way, these laws are a clear violation of an individual's right to privacy and their right to engage in consensual sexual relations.
The Origins of Sodomy Laws
Sodomy laws have their origins in English common law. These laws were first codified in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a way to prevent "immoral" sexual activity from taking place. At the time, such activity was largely seen as being homosexual.
These laws were eventually challenged and struck down by several state courts; however, they were resurrected in 1986 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Bowers v Hardwick. In this case, the Court ruled that states could criminalize sodomy if they so desired. It wasn't until 2003 that the Supreme Court finally reversed its decision in Lawrence v Texas; however, there are still 14 states that have yet to repeal their anti-sodomy laws.
The Impact on the LGBTQIA+ Community
For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, anti-sodomy laws can have a profound impact on their day-to-day lives. In addition to the fear of being arrested and prosecuted for engaging in consensual sexual relations, these laws also serve to legitimize discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ individuals. In a country where nearly half of all transgender people have experienced physical violence at the hands of a partner, and gay men are twice as likely as straight men to be victims of sexual violence, it is clear that these laws have real-world consequences for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Countries That Still Outlaw Homosexuality
Unfortunately, the US is not alone in its backward thinking when it comes to homosexuality. There are currently 69 countries where homosexual relations are illegal, including Iran, Sudan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. In some of these countries, such as Iran and Sudan, homosexual relations are punishable by death. Just last year, Brunei sparked international outrage when it announced that it would be introducing new laws that would make homosexual relations punishable by stoning.
The Backlash Against the LGBTQIA+ Community
Sadly, recent years have seen a resurgence in anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment around the world. From Russia's "gay propaganda" law to Uganda's "kill the gays" bill, it seems like every week there's a new story about a country trying to roll back the progress that has been made for LGBTQIA+ rights. This backlash has been felt most keenly by transgender people, who have been targets of an unprecedented number of attacks in recent years. Just this month alone, there have been three high-profile murders of transgender women in the US.
It's easy to take for granted how lucky we are to live in a country where we can freely express our sexuality without fear of imprisonment or violence. But we mustn't forget that there are still many countries where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by death. We must also remember that progress is never guaranteed; we must fight for our rights every day or risk seeing them taken away from us overnight.