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Homosexuality and Crime

Cross-cultural Conceptions, Western Traditions, Modernity, Anglo-american Law Reform, The Global View

A glance through anthropological and historical records reveals immense cross-cultural variation in the acceptance and repression of homosexual relations between men and between women. So great is this variation that some societies in some eras have imposed capital punishment on men engaging in homosexual acts, while others have held sexual friendships between men to be a social ideal of the most honorable, and even heroic, men. The treatment of homoerotic relations between women has often not been symmetric to those of men, being valued or constrained as much by gender conformity as by sexuality per se. Given this immense variation, the question, especially for western societies, is: How did homosexuality become criminalized, then medicalized, and then, to varying degrees, emancipated from the control of church, government, and other social institutions and reform movements? Today the relevant issue in democratic societies is less about crime and more about how best to assure that law works to guarantee the freedom and equal participation of all, including homosexually interested members of society, in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Homosexuality and people identified as homosexuals—lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered people—today confront a patchwork of legal injunctions, depending on jurisdiction, that range from unreformed criminal labels to inclusion in antidiscrimination codes.


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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law