Sometimes fear can bring people together especially if their experiences are similar. Fear can also drive people apart.
The debate within the Caribbean regarding the decriminalization of prostitution and consensual anal intercourse has been ongoing on account of fear from people on various sides of the debate. On the one hand, those who oppose the move to decriminalize prostitution and consensual anal intercourse, argue that if these are allowed the society will fall further into immorality and degradation. Those who are in support argue that this will in some way help in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The debate no doubt needs for both sides to objectively dialogue so that the wider public can at least be informed on the issues and perhaps alleviate some, if not all their fears.
Presently those who argue against decriminalization in particular do so mainly on religious grounds without any evidence to show how indeed society will fall deeper into degradation on account of what they consider to be sexual deviancy. Citing scripture and saying this is against God’s law does not necessarily prove their arguments to be sound or valid; neither does it mean that the laws of the society need be one and the same as those which may be considered to be God’s law.
On the other hand, the other argument in favour of decriminalization, stands a better chance at showing real evidence to support its claim, yet, decriminalization should not be done simply as a means of dealing with a serious health crisis in the society. In fact, there are a number of other issues that also have to be addressed regardless of what the final outcome is regarding decriminalization. To this end, this essay will seek to address some of those issues in light of the ongoing debate on homosexuality and will be particularly addressing the argument in opposition to decriminalization.
One thing must be clear in people’s minds as to what is meant by the word homosexual. A homosexual is a person who is sexually attracted or drawn to members of the same sex. In fact it has to be stressed that ‘people do not choose their sexual orientation. Nobody simply makes up his or her mind to become homosexual or a heterosexual. Rather, at some point in their development, “discover” that they are sexually drawn to members of the same sex just as heterosexuals “discover” that they are physically attracted to members of the opposite sex’. It is important that this is borne in mind because one of the issues preceding any talk about decriminalization or any other feelings we may have regarding homosexuals is that they not be treated as criminals but as human beings even if their lifestyle may seem to conflict with that of the rest of the society. It is also necessary to distinguish between people who simply engage in homosexual behaviour and those who are homosexual on account of their orientation; engaging in homosexual acts does not automatically make someone homosexual.
Unfortunately, even some members of the church have not been kind to homosexuals and the many articles in the newspapers and other fora have shown that the many people who call themselves Christian have yet to understand the word “compassion” and in many ways come over as being very unchristian in their attitudes. Each person, of course, has a right to have an opinion and that opinion of course has to be respected.
There are a number of myths about homosexuals and homosexuality. These only seek to increase fear and make people more homophobic. There is no evidence to suggest that most homosexuals are attracted to children and want to have sexual relations with them in the same way that it is not true that all priests are pedophiles. It is also not true that because of one’s homosexual orientation that this automatically means that one is unstable or promiscuous. It would also be shortsighted to think that homosexuals cannot contribute positively to society and that by being homosexual in some way affects their abilities so much so that they are unable to perform in every aspect of the society’s life. It is time for society as a whole to recognize that a person’s sexual orientation does not necessarily debar them from even holding the highest office of the land or working in areas where one’s performance has nothing whatsoever to do with one’s sexual orientation or sex for that matter.
We can say then that society has really got itself in a bind and ‘is trapped in a vicious circle’ for ‘it’s largely intolerant reaction to homosexuality induces many homosexuals to remain invisible, and this invisibility in turn permits the stereotypical characteristics of homosexuals both to dominate our awareness and to cloud our judgments to such an extent that society’s fear of homosexuality is reinforced and it’s discriminatory attitude and behaviour maintained’.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is real and there no immediate end to it in sight; everyone has to play a role in stemming the disease. It does not help us if we simply blame homosexuals for our situation or even suggest that this is God’s punishment to all of us for accepting this kind of behaviour in our society. It is unfortunate that this epidemic and the spreading of it are seen as the fault of the homosexuals and their lifestyle but AIDS/HIV has long moved beyond the realms of homosexuality as we know, is also very rampant among heterosexuals, so everyone in society is affected in one way or another. We have to deal with the facts and work together to educate everyone in our society so that they can play their part in helping to stem the flow of the disease. Much of this will come from our own conscious effort in the way we live our lives. We have to make decisions about what we know to be right or wrong and this does not end at our sexual behaviour; we have to make choices for the whole of our life.
Some of these choices will include our sexual relationships and how we approach them. Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike will have to decide how they will live out their sexual relationships. How many sexual partners will they have? What does practicing of safe sex mean if it means anything at all? Our choices will be affected by our whole attitudes to sexuality and to sex in particular. HIV/AIDS also challenges our understanding of sexuality and must continue to affect our choices so much so that we will make the right decisions about our sexual behaviour. We may make some good choices as we will make some bad ones, but we have to make them, homosexuals included. Our people also need to be educated so that they can understand the issues which can then help them make informed choices. To this end, supporters and non-supporters of decriminalization have to work together because the issues go deeper than the question of making something legal or not; or it being sinful or not.