Historical Context: 350 MC

Homosexuality, as pointed out by (Edwards 1994), has been a target for several sectors within society over previous centuries, which is what may have led to the stigma that surrounds the topic of homosexuals within contemporary society. Firstly if we look at the damnation of homosexuality we can see how some religions had turned the act of same sex activities into a sin.

“The rise of Judaeo – Christian religions and, in particular, Protestantism and Catholicism, is often seen as instrumental in forming some of the first moves in legitimating certain forms of sexuality and condemning others, fostering fears and fueling hostilities towards those ‘other’ sexualities”  (Edwards 1994) What many religions shared was the prohibitions against non-procreative sexual activities. Anything that was purely for sexual pleasure was condemned such as prostitution, extra-marital sex and male homosexuality. ‘consequently, this meant that homosexuality was a sin, an abomination, a crime against nature and worthy of damnation.’ At the time people were not seen as ‘homosexual’ but it was the practice of same sex, in particular, sodomy that was an abomination.

Now looking at the homosexuality in the law it first became illegal in both England and Wales in 1885 until 1967. This criminalisation was an attempt to reaffirm ‘moral and social order within an outbreak of concern over national identity in the uproar over Home Rule for Ireland and the decline of the Empire’. Homosexuality was just one target among many as an attempt to reclaim social order, along with prostitution and soliciting. Before the amendment there was just one law which applied directly to homosexuality, that was the law on sodomy, part of the 1533 Act of Henry VIII.

Along with the criminalisation of homosexuality the medicalisation of it happened almost simultaneously. Before this happened homosexual practices existed for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1869 that a Swiss doctor, Karoly Mari Benkert, formally coined the term. The case studies and theorising done into homosexuality indicated that it was a sickness or in need of treatment.

“If the law and its associated penalties made homosexuals into outsiders, and religion gave them a high sense of guilt, medicine and science gave them a deep sense of inferiority and inadequacy” (Edwards 1994)

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