Non-Western World Gay Culture

Amos Lassen

In is difficult for us to imagine what it is like to be gay in a world which there is no democracy. For most of us, it is all we know and as much as we complain about how bad things are for us, we are relatively lucky. First Run Features has produced an excellent and intelligent documentary on what it is like to be gay in non-western cultures. John Scagliotti and Dan Hunt and Janet Baus, producers, explore the lives of gay men and lesbian women on five different continents. They chose places such as Kenya, Egypt, Honduras and others because these are the sites of most oppression and media coverage does not exist. It was not enough to just get a filed of the land; they went after the personal stories of the citizens themselves. By doing so they open the eyes of the world about an emerging global movement which is aspiring to end discrimination and violence to members of the GLBT community.

I think it is these personal stories that make this movie so engrossing. The concentration of the film on the organization named Human Rights Watch gives us an insiders view on the levels of intolerance that exist in the world today for members of our community. Human Rights Watch  is looked upon as the most influential and important human rights organizations in the world today and when First Run Features, a leader in the production of movies that focus on human rights formed a coalition to bring awareness to major issues of human rights, this film was born. Human Rights Watch set up a special bureau for the GLBT community with the purpose to be to end problems fostered on the community which were based on the issues of gender identity and sexual abuse.

Some of the problems presented in this film are hard to watch and really touch the core of humanity. In 2001, in Cairo, Egypt more than fifty men were arrested in a police raid at a disco and were charged with the crime of having sex with other men. Their trial became a rallying cry for the world as well as an international scandal. Half of the men were sentenced to long prison terms by a court that was repressive in its views. What was even worse was that the trial initiated an even harder policy toward gays in Egypt and thousands of men were jailed and tortured in the following three years. Homes of private citizens were raided, phones were tapped and a net of government informers took to the streets to locate men who were suspected of homosexuality. An undercover operation whereby police answered personal ads and made arrangements to meet the person and then dragged them off to jail.

This is just one incident which homophobia is handled in some parts of the world. The film deals with others as well. There are still sodomy laws on the books of over one hundred countries and these laws make sex between consenting adults a crime and in some cases the penalty can be death or life in prison. The political machines of many countries spew hatred vehemently and in Zimbabwe the president has used the expression that homosexuals are “worse than dogs and pigs”. Even, here, in the United States, a senator has compared homosexuality to bestiality. Laws that repress us make us targets for harassment and lesbians and transgender face violence even in their own families. In some non-western countries lesbians are forced to endure what is known as “curative rape”; violence to “cure” their “dirty” lifestyle.

What we must remember is that homophobia is not unique to developing countries or forlorn areas. It is an international obsession that has international consequences. In “Dangerous Living”, we have the stories and the voices of the results of homophobia and because of the heroic people who have faced this hatred and have, in some cases, laid down their lives,  the story is ours to see and to reflect upon. It is these people who are the heroes of the today and you really should have a look at this video to see and hear their stories.

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