Sodomy law

A sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as sex crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but is typically understood by courts to include any sexual act which does not lead to procreation. It also has a range of similar euphemisms. These acts typically include oral sex, anal sex, and bestiality; in practice such laws have rarely been enforced against heterosexual couples.

Such laws have roots in antiquity, and are linked to religious proscriptions against certain sex acts. Contemporary supporters of sodomy laws argue that there are additional reasons for retaining them. They include public health concerns about anal sex, or concerns that legalisation of homosexuality will lead to a declining population. Such arguments may be considered invalid due to the availability of condoms, and global population increasing too rapidly already, respectively.

Sodomy laws can be found around the world. Today, consensual homosexual acts between adults are illegal in about 70 out of the 195 countries of the world;Speeches Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 40 of these, only male-male sex is outlawed. This number has been declining since the second half of the 20th century.


The Middle Assyrian Law Codes (1075 BC) state: If a man have intercourse with his brother-in-arms, they shall turn him into a eunuch. This is the earliest known law condemning the act of sodomy. The Lex Scantia was written by the Romans.

Most anti-sodomy laws in Western countries originated from a Judeo-Christian world-view established from the bible. The Biblical book Leviticus defines sex between men as a crime that warrants capital punishment.The New Testament also condemns Sodomy. The biblical book of Romans calls Sodomy "unnatural", "degrading passions", "indecent acts"(Romans 1:24-27)"Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen 26 for this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error." 1 Cor 6:9 says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." 1 Timothy (1:9-10) calls Sodomy an act that ungodly and sinners do.

In England, Henry VIII introduced the first legislation under English criminal law against homosexuals with the Buggery Act of 1533, making buggery punishable by hanging, a penalty not lifted until 1861.

Following Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, the crime of sodomy has often been defined only as the abominable and detestable crime against nature, or some variation of the phrase. This language led to widely varying rulings about what specific acts were encompassed by its prohibition.

After the publishing of the Wolfenden report in the UK, which asserted that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence", many western governments, including the United States, have repealed laws specifically against homosexual acts while retaining sodomy laws. In June 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that state laws criminalizing private, non-commercial sexual activity (including homosexual activity) between consenting adults on the grounds of morality are unconstitutional since there is insufficient justification for state interest in such conduct.

All of Europe, North America and nearly all of Latin America or/and South America have recently abolished sodomy laws (except for; Belize, Guyana and Panama? - along with several Caribbean islands, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago). This trend among Western nations has not been followed in all other regions of the world (Africa, some parts of Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean Islands), where sodomy often remains a serious crime. Homosexual acts remain punishable by death in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, some parts of Nigeria and Somalia. Prison for life in; Barbados (Not enforced for in private - Under review) Bangladesh, Guyana, India, Maldives, Myanmar/Burma, Pakistan, Qatar, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.


Sodomy laws by country


Australia inherited the United Kingdom's sodomy laws on colonisation in 1788. These were retained in the criminal codes passed by the various colonial parliaments during the 19th century, and by the state parliaments after Federation.

Following the Wolfenden report, the Dunstan Labor government introduced a consenting adults in private type defence in South Australia in 1972. This defence was initiated as a bill by Murray Hill, father of former Defence Minister Robert Hill, and repealed the state's sodomy law in 1975. The Campaign Against Moral Persecution during the 1970s raised the profile and acceptance of Australia's gay and lesbian communities, and other states and territories repealed their laws between 1976 and 1990. The exception was Tasmania, which retained its laws until the Federal Government and the United Nations Human Rights Committee forced their repeal in 1997. The details are given in the book Living out Loud: A History of Gay and Lesbian Activism in Australia.

When male homosexuality was decriminalised in the Australian Capital Territory in 1976, then Norfolk Island in 1993, following South Australia in 1975 and Victoria in 1981 - At the time of legalization (for the above), the age of consent, rape, defences, etc were all set gender-neutral and equal . Western Australia legalised male homosexuality in 1989 - Under the Law Reform (Decriminalization of Sodomy) Act 1989, as did New South Wales and the Northern Territory in 1984 with unequal ages of consent of 18 for New South Wales and the Northern Territory and 21 for Western Australia. Then since 1997, the states and territories that retained different ages of consent or other vestiges of sodomy laws have tended to repeal them later; Western Australia did so in 2002, and New South Wales and the Northern Territory did so in 2003. Today only Tasmania and Queensland are the only Australian jurisdictions that still enforce a sodomy law, with the age of consent for anal sex being set at 18 (as compared to 16 for vaginal and oral sex in Queensland) and in Tasmania, certain exceptions which constitute a defence do not apply if anal sex is involved with a person or persons under


Brazilian criminal law does not punish any sexual act performed by consenting adults, but allows for prosecution, under statutory rape laws and the children's protection act, when one of the participants is under 14 year of age and the other an adult, as per Articles 214, 223, 224 and 225 of the Brazilian Penal Code and Articles 240 and 244-A of the Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente - Law 8.069. Article 235 of the Brazilian Military Criminal Code - DL 1.001/69-, however, does incriminate any contact deemed to be libidinous, be it of a homosexual nature or not, made in any location subject to military administration. Since the article is entitled Of pederasty or other libidinous acts, gay rights advocates claim that, since the Brazilian armed forces are comprised almost exclusively by males, the article allows for witch-hunts against homosexuals in the military service.


Before 1859, Canada relied on British law to prosecute sodomy. In 1859, Canada repatriated its buggery law in the Consolidated Statutes of Canada as an offense punishable by death. Buggery remained punishable by death until 1869. A broader law targeting all homosexual male sexual activity ("gross indecency") was passed in 1892, as part of a larger update to the criminal law. Changes to the criminal code in 1948 and 1961 were used to brand gay men as "criminal sexual psychopaths" and "dangerous sexual offenders." These labels provided for indeterminate prison sentences. Most famously, George Klippert, a homosexual, was labelled a dangerous sexual offender and sentenced to life in prison, a sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. He was released in 1971.

Canadian law now permits anal sex by consenting parties above the age of 18, provided no more than two people are present. The bill repealing Canada's sodomy laws was the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (Bill C-150), which received royal assent on June 27, 1969. The bill had been introduced in the House of Commons by Pierre Trudeau, who famously stated that "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation". In the 1995 Ontario Court of Appeal case R. v. M. (C.), the judges ruled that the relevant section (section 159) of the Criminal Code of Canada violated section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when one or both of the partners are 16 to 18 years of age; this has not been tried in court again.

A similar decision was made by the Quebec Court of Appeal in the 1998 case R. v. Roy.

China, People's Republic of

Sodomy was legalised in 1992, but "hooliganism" was still a crime until 1997 in the People's Republic of China. Yet there is no clear statute towards consenting parties above the age of 18. If someone under 18 is involved, the adult partner will be prosecuted. In a notable case in 2002, a man who had anal intercourse with a teenager was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

"Homosexual Buggery". In Hong Kong SAR, according to the Hong Kong Crimes Ordinance Section 118C, both of the two men must be at least 21 to commit homosexual buggery legally or otherwise both of them can be liable to life imprisonment. Sect 118F states that committing homosexual buggery not privately is also illegal and can be liable to imprisonment for 5 years.

"Heterosexual Buggery". A man who commits buggery with a girl under 21 can also be liable to life imprisonment (Sect 118D) while no similar laws concerning committing heterosexual buggery otherwise than in private.

In 2005, Judge Hartmann found these 4 laws: Sect 118C, 118F, 118H, and 118J were discriminatory towards gay male and unconstitutional against the Hong Kong Basic Law and Bills of Rights Ordinance in the judicial review filed by a Hong Kong citizen. It was believed that the age of consent had been reduced from 21 to 16 for any kind of homosexual sex acts. However, there were still individuals caught in spite of the judgement and there have been both cases in which the defendants were judged guilty and not guilty. Still, no revision has been made to the 4 deemed unconstitutional laws so far.

Macau Special Administrative Region

In Macau SAR, according to Article 166 & 168, committing anal coitus with whoever under the age of 17 is a crime and shall be punished by imprisonment of up to 10 years (committing with whoever under 14) and 4 years (committing with whoever between 14 and 16) respectively.

China, Republic of (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, the Criminal Code of Republic of China Article 10 officially defines anal intercourse to be a form of sexual intercourse, along with vaginal and oral intercourse. The age of consent is 18, and Article 277 and the Child and Youth Sexual Transaction Prevention Act>

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