Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stella Says…Watch your back, morality police are lurking

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 16 May 2006)

Imagine you have decided to have sex with someone.

Whether you are in love with this person or not isn't the issue. Neither is whether you want to pursue a relationship with this person. The only issue is that you are going to have sex with a person of your choosing.

For a Houston couple in 2003, this choice got them arrested.

During the actual act, something totally unexpected and utterly humiliating happened. The police burst into the house and arrested them. The law enforcers were not checking to make sure both people involved were mutual, consenting adults.

The police did not care if the two were Christian or Muslim. Nor did they care about the race of the "offenders." Marital status was not the issue either. So, what were the police looking for that penned these two people in a jail cell? The couple was arrested because both were men.

A similar incident could take place in Guyana today since sodomy is still on the law books here too. Unless the standing laws of the country change to be more tolerant of sexual preference, it seems the logical outcome could one day be paranoid heterosexuals narking on their homosexual neighbours to "clean up the neighbourhood."

The privacy of gay couples could be torn asunder by the scrutinizing eyes of disapproving moralisers. The civil rights of these homosexual Guyanese could be lost through ignorance and fear.

According to a press release from The Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD), the group plans to have events all week as it joins, “organisations from over 40 countries to commemorate the second International Day against Homophobia on Wednesday.”

The press release mentioned that the General Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders on May 17 in 1990. That is only 16 years ago! Sometimes when I think the human race is progressing along at breakneck speed, all I have to do is read about this kind of backward behaviour to be reminded of how far we still have to go.

Although I am a white woman, I have never been attracted to white men. As such, it would infuriate me to have someone deem me mentally disabled simply because I do not find white men attractive. However, our world is such that there was a time not so long ago when a white woman could have been killed for having sex with a man who was not her same race.

So what about women who do not find any men attractive or men who do not find women attractive? In my opinion, they should be allowed to pursue whomever they do find attractive – even if is their same gender.

Humans can be slow to accept change, even if we claim to be open-minded and ready to learn the ways of other cultures. This is especially true when it involves our religious beliefs. However, the question of gay sex morality is not even the point when it comes to these standing laws.

Rather, this is a question of whether civil rights apply to all Guyanese or just the ones who comply with traditional, conservative religious values. Should those who practice one of the mainstream religions be afforded a higher status as a citizen simply because they choose to align themselves to traditional values?

What of those in society who choose to reject those traditional values and seek to be the master of their own values and goals? Typically, as long as these individuals do not infringe on society’s established rules, they are usually given the freedom to pursue their own way of life.

It is when these non-conformists begin stepping on the toes of the traditionalists that things start to get messy. Homosexuality has been one of those areas that society as a whole has been far more resistant in doling out tolerance. However, society should not have the right to define the parameters of its citizen’s sexual preference.

What is done in a person's bedroom should be honoured with privacy, regardless of sexual orientation. If those rights are subject to infringement at the whim of a person who frowns on a homosexual lifestyle, then we should expect the same of other “moral” issues as well.

Will drinking and dancing be next on the list since there are many religions that frown on these activities too? Legislation such as this was passed in ignorance and intolerance, just like laws in several states in America that banned inter-racial marriage.

However, the fact that such laws remain is an affront to people who want to step outside of the simple construct of religious morality. I cannot help but wonder if there aren’t times when religion divides a nation more than it helps it. I will explore this a little more in my column on Thursday.

Perhaps it's time to step out of the dark ages and recognise that all forms of diversity makes us beautiful – not evil. When we stop insisting that everyone one must look and act like one certain group, we will finally be able to enjoy the beauty of our diversity instead of feeling like we are being forced into a mould made for someone else.

Email: StellaSays[at]gmail.com

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