May 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm (gender issues, is religion good or bad for you?, moral issues, society)

A gay couple in Malawi were arrested after holding an engagement ceremony, and now sentenced to 14 years in prison. It strikes me that the couple must have known this could happen to them, and it is very brave to live out your values in this way without fearing what people will do. Reminds me of the Sudanese lady who insisted on wearing trousers not fearing the punishment. I have a lot of admiration for that.

Handing down sentence in the commercial capital, Blantyre, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa told the pair: “I will give you a scaring sentence so that the public be protected from people like you, so that we are not tempted to emulate this horrendous example.”

Interesting to note that “the laws under which the pair were convicted were introduced during British colonial rule.”

Obviously Britain has come a long way in tolerance since then, but it is not only modern, developed, western countries that are open-minded and rational about these things – I read this beautiful post this week, mentioning a remote and traditional part of Mexico that is very accepting of transsexuals. According to the article linked to in the post, “Anthropologists trace the acceptance of people of mixed gender to pre-Colombian Mexico, pointing to accounts of cross-dressing Aztec priests and Mayan gods who were male and female at the same time. Spanish colonizers wiped out most of those attitudes in the 1500s by forcing conversion to Catholicism. But mixed-gender identities managed to survive in the area around Juchitán, a place so traditional that many people speak ancient Zapotec instead of Spanish.”

Is it just me or is there a correlation between Abrahamic religions and intolerance?



  1. susanne430 said,

    Hmmm, no, it’s not just you. Thanks for the informative stories!

  2. GTFrenzy said,

    What do you mean by tolerance? If by either accepting it or supporting their lifestyle then yes Abrahamic religion are intolerent to it. However, how they react to such lifestyle varies. In my case I do not care what others do, shack up whom ever they want. I don’t think sentencing them to 14 years if prison would make them un-gay, for lack of a better term. But, does his mean I accept their lifestyle, support it, and condone it. No. Does this mean I believe they should be killed or be punished. No. So where does that leave me? Am I homophobic for not accepting or supporting their lifestyle? Eventhough, I do not gay-bash or harm them in any way. I don’t talk or act in a different way when I meet gay and lesbians.

    This is the problem with the West homosexuality is okay as long it’s between to consenting adults. But, a big deal is made of two consenting adults who happen to be direct reletives are in a relationship. For example that Grandmother who had sex with her 26 year old grandson? They both wanted it and love each other why is this an issue a taboo in the West but other sexual prefrences are accepted. Once you accept one you must accept all. Your being just as intolerent to those who engage in incest among other things. Not that I think homosexuality is like incest.

    • Sarah said,

      By tolerance I mean allowing people to live their lives freely as long as they’re not harming anyone. I don’t mean necessarily agreement with the lifestyle. It is fear that makes people go from disagreeing with something to actually seeing it as a threat and wanting to disallow it. I don’t know where this fear comes from but I think religions don’t help, it seems.

      You’re right, secular thinking contains biases too. It is not entirely rational and it is subject to social norms. There are good scientific reasons why incest is usually a bad thing, because of the dangers of genetic disorders in offspring, but maybe that doesn’t apply with a grandmother! 😉

      • GTFrenzy said, This a link of a sibiling who are in love and just want to marry in Germany (so their relationship becomes legal). If the link does not work (since I’m using my iPod touch to type this) just type in “German brother and sister practice incest”.

        There is no rational in denying incest between loving and concenting adults. I understand the issue of genetic disorder, but what if they are barren or decided not have kids? What if they want to adopt kids so they could avoid genetic disorder? Then what is the issue? See illogical that is. Homosexuals know they cannot produce kids this is why they need special laws to adopt them or use sprem banks to have kids? So why make one legal and other illegal on the basis of “social norm”. Social norms change and is man made. Just as we see today the acceptance of homosexuality and their right to have kids and be married (especially here in Canada).

        • Sarah said,

          Well, as Amber said, there can be issues of abuse of trust with incest cases. But in any case I agree that social norms play a large part in people’s judgments. If your point is that western “liberal” thinking is not as open-minded and rational as it claims to be, I would agree!

          I saw a TV programme about incest between siblings who had never met until adulthood. Apparently there is a very high chance of a strong attraction between siblings who didn’t know each other from childhood. I see this as very unfortunate for them. No-one would choose to fall in love with their brother or sister. I have never been in that position so I don’t feel I’m in a position to judge.

          • GTFrenzy said,

            That exactly what was going for! That’s the irony of claiming to be openminded. 🙂

            We are not sure if people would be attracted to their siblings, with the social stigma that attached to such relations deters people from it. If we were as sexual open like animals then these issues would not exist.

      • GTFrenzy said,

        As for fear, I do not fear their homosexuality or their chose in living out their lifestyle. Why must it come down to fear if one disagrees with homosexuality? Even the term homophobia practically cover any form of disagreement of homosexuality. Whether it be on the basis of religious belief, morality, social norms, laws of nature, among other things.

        • Sarah said,

          “Why must it come down to fear if one disagrees with homosexuality?”

          No, of course it mustn’t. As I said, “It is fear that makes people go from disagreeing with something to actually seeing it as a threat and wanting to disallow it.”

          It’s true unfortunately that people often deem it to be intolerant if you merely disagree with it. I think it’s just an issue that people can be very sensitive about because of a small number of haters (or in the past, maybe a lot more haters). It’s a little bit like Islamophobia in that way – Muslims can often mistake people’s disagreement with their religion for hatred and intolerance, because a few bigoted people do hate.

          I think everyone deep down wants people to agree with them and to approve of what they are. This is never going to happen. But we can hopefully learn to not mind people disagreeing with us. 🙂 Me especially!

          • GTFrenzy said,

            I agree with you, we all need to know and accept that not everyone is going to agree with us. And that’s okay 🙂

  3. Amber said,

    Not just you at all. The Abrahamic faiths are *really* intolerant of anything that doesn’t match their ideal.

    I’ve read some interesting arguments against the Biblical prohibitions on homosexual sex, and the cultural and practical reasons for them, at the time. But those reasons don’t really apply, any more.

    I am of the opinion that whatever two consenting adults want to do in their private time is their business. But that doesn’t give carte blanche to all sexual activities. Anything involving a living creature that cannot consent is out, obviously. And there are some other things, but I’m not going to mention them, because, uh, there’s no reason to display my knowledge of deviant sexual practices. 🙂

    As far as the example of incest that was mentioned, I think, aside from the genetic issues involved, should the two have a child, there is still the huge possibility of abuse. I’m not familiar with this incident, so I don’t know the circumstances, so this may not apply. But, in the cases of incest where one party is older than the other, you have to question what influence they exerted over the younger party, even if no sexual contact happened until both were adults.

    In the case of a grandparent and a grandchild, assuming a normal familiar relationship, that grandparent watched that child grow up. At what point does the switch flip from familial love to sexual? How can you be sure that they weren’t using their position of authority and the love that the child had for their grandparent to influence them into having a relationship at a later time? Or even younger?

    It’s not rape, because both parties were of age to give consent, and did so, but it’s dubious consent, at best. Because you have no way of knowing what influence was exerted to make the younger party give their consent.

    The cultural and moral aversion and prohibition against incest exists for very good reasons. Reasons which remain effective in the modern world. Homosexuality, not so much.

    • Sarah said,

      I agree completely. What doesn’t harm anyone, is OK by me, even if it’s not to my tastes. Although the notion of harm is subjective to a certain extent I guess. Good point about the possibility of abuse of trust in the case of incest. I have ideas about what I think is most likely to make us happy in terms of relationships, but I have been wrong in my black & white thinking so many times that I try not to be too opinionated these days. I need to listen to reason more and suspend judgment.

  4. Achelois said,

    “Is it just me or is there a correlation between Abrahamic religions and intolerance?”

    No it’s not just you 🙂

    But I think this intolerance for homosexuality started a long time before Abrahamic faiths appeared. Hinduism has some very barbaric punishments for homosexuals (chopping off two fingers thus marking gays forever! smearing black paint of the face and making them ride a donkey etc).

    Liked Amber’s comment.

    • Sarah said,

      Interesting. I guess it’s easy to see how this can start up – the straight majority generally dislike the idea of gay sex, and then that view somehow gets absolutised and it eventually becomes a punishable offense somewhere down the line.

      • Coolred38 said,

        You would have to wonder why those against gay sex…are against it. its not like they are being pursued by homosexuals and being forced to engage in it. I dont get it.

        btw…when people refer to being homosexual as a “lifestyle” that makes it sound like a choise…if you dont actively choose the hetero “lifestyle” then why is it assumed you actively choose the gay lifestyle? Just wondering.

        • Sarah said,

          True. If they really find it so horrendous, how can they think they will be “tempted” to do it themselves as that Malawian judge said? It doesn’t make any sense!

  5. misschatterbox said,

    hmm interesting thoughts. Abrahamic faiths share a lot certainly, in terms of moral code and Law. However I’m pretty sure most religions, traditionally are against homosexuality, and equally intolerant in their own way! It is not religion that is intolerant, it is men!
    Go to the local pub here in Perth and chat with some of the aetheist/agnostics there and you will encounter the same thing.

    Tolerance and discrimination are interesting words which often find their way into political rhetoric. Typically tolerance = good, discrimination = good.
    Yet in another context discrimination means to discriminate or discern, between right and wrong. Tolerance can mean to tolerate something that is wrong.

    Personally I believe God is “intolerant” of homsexuality – but ‘tolerant’ of homosexuals. I personally believe homosexual acts are a sin – but that I, as a sinner, am in no position to judge. I also know the Bible teaches me to treat everyone with love and respect. I feel for those men in Malawi, because although I disagree with their behaviour, it does not harm anyone else. And if behaving sinfully (in a way thatcauses no harm to others) is a cause for jail, then I would be in there too!

    Most people would consider my beliefs old-fashioned, ‘intolerant’ and religious rubbish. That’s their choice to do so! But it may interest people to know that I have several gay, lesbian and bi friends. I am open and honest about my beliefs but I do not judge them, or push my views on them. They know I do not want to hear about their sex life (or even my straight friends for that matter!) but they are welcome to discuss anything else with me. It amazes people that a ‘conservative’ ‘fundamental’ Bible-basher can have a happy harmonious friendship with a gay person!

    • Sarah said,

      misschatterbox – your view on homosexuality is exactly what mine was when I was into Christianity (these days I don’t dare regard anything as a sin unless I can see that it causes harm). I was always at pains to emphasise that I didn’t have a problem with gay people even though I believed God disapproved of homosexuality. It is frustrating when people assume that just because you believe it’s a sin, you are intolerant and that you “hate gay people”. One of my evangelical Christian friends went on a gay pride march with a banner saying “Jesus loves gay people too”!

      For a certain percentage of people though, disapproval will inevitably turn into intolerance and fear and hatred, which can easily spread, so I think if enough people in a society disapprove then you can easily get a situation like this in Malawi. Especially where ignorance and prejudice is rife. So I don’t think Abrahamic faiths necessarily espouse intolerance, but there is a correlation with intolerance because of how intolerance can sometimes grow out of these beliefs.

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