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Human Rights and Homo-Sectuals: The International Politics of Sexuality, Religion, and Law

Jeffrey A. Redding

Saint Louis University School of Law


Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights, Vol. 4, p. 436, 2006

In this article, I offer both a critique of and alternatives to a recent proposal by Brazil to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) concerning sexual orientation persecution and discrimination.

I begin my argument by demonstrating, as in the case of Egypt, how state persecution of gays, lesbians, and homosexuals around the globe is often steeped in claims of religiosity. I then go on to demonstrate, as well, that while it is certainly true that some homosexuals want to identify as gay, some do not wish to so identify. Moreover, some who do so identify don't necessarily understand gay as first and foremost a sexual identity at every point in time (if ever at all). For this latter set of persons, their gayness or homosexuality is deeply interwoven with personal experiences and understandings of religion. Accordingly, when such homo-sectuals - to use a neologism - are persecuted, they understand this persecution as religious persecution. Thus, as formulated and understood by many governments and persons - but not, as I argue, by enough international human rights activists - persecution of the sexual can often actually be persecution of the religious.

Given this reality, and using a subsequent discussion of a related set of religious and sexual politics in India, I demonstrate how international human rights norms and practices can and should do a better job of respecting persons' diverse self-identifications and self-understandings. These international norms and practices can demonstrate such respect, I argue, by more seriously deploying existing human rights protections concerning religious persecution and discrimination, instead of insisting that the forms of persecution and discrimination discussed in this article must now be understood as sexual for all people, no matter where located. The particular international human rights norms and practices whose reform I discuss in this respect are those which deal with states' persecutory anti-sodomy laws, as well as those which concern international law's treatment of the gay refugee.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 57

Keywords: Sexuality, religion, Islam, human rights, Egypt, India

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Date posted: October 24, 2005 ; Last revised: October 24, 2008

Suggested Citation

Redding, Jeffrey A., Human Rights and Homo-Sectuals: The International Politics of Sexuality, Religion, and Law (2006). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=825427

Contact Information

Jeffrey A. Redding (Contact Author)
Saint Louis University School of Law ( email )
100 N. Tucker Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108
United States

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