This Alien Legacy The Origins of “Sodomy” Laws in British Colonialism

Human Rights Watch have released a 66 page report describing the sodomy laws created by the British colonial governments and continued today in over 36 countries from India to Malaysia, Nigeria and Uganda. The report explains how one sodomy law imposed on India in 1860 formed the basis for all other anti-homosexual laws across the British Empire.

The laws that the Europeans brought dragged a long prehistory behind them. The first recorded mentions of “sodomy” in English law date back to two medieval treatises called Fleta and Britton. They suggest how strictures on sex were connected to Christian Europe’s other consuming anxieties…

Less well known is that codifying sexual offenses began far earlier, in 1825, when the mandate to devise law for the Indian colony was handed to the politician and historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. Macaulay chaired the first Law Commission of India and was the main drafter of the Indian Penal Code-the first comprehensive codified criminal law produced anywhere in the British Empire.[48]

The colonial environment was the perfect field for experiments in rationalizing and systematizing law. The colonies were passive laboratories. A nineteenth-century historian observed that the Indian Penal Code was a success because there, unlike at home, the British government could express “a distinct collective will” and could “carry it out without being hampered by popular discussion.”[49]This autocratic imposition of a unified code took advantage of the “absence of a developed and contentious Indian public opinion around questions of criminal law,” allowing Macaulay a “free field for experimentation.”[50]

Fears of moral infection from the “native” environment made it urgent to insert anti-sodomy provisions in the colonial code. A sub-tradition of British imperialist writing warned of widespread homosexuality in the countries Britain colonized. The explorer Richard Burton, for instance, postulated a “Sotadic Zone” stretching around the planet’s midriff from 43 degrees north of the equator to 30 south, in which “the Vice is popular and endemic …. whilst the races to the North and South of the limits here defined practice it only sporadically amid the opprobrium of their fellows.” [51]

It is this law that is used by former British colonies in Africa such as in Uganda, Nigeria and Zimbabwe as well as religious leaders such as Bishop Peter Akinola of the Anglican Church in Nigeria to criminalise same sex reationships under the pretense that they are unAfrican and a Western import. The report is a direct challenge to the lies and cultural revisionism of these people and supports what African GBTI activists and those from other former British colonies in Asia have been insisting – the truth being it is the law that is UnAfrican and a Western import rather than same sex relationships.