Tuesday, August 21, 2007

18 Men Arrested for Cross-Dressing

So it seems that recently, 12 states in Northern Nigeria passed stricter Sharia laws (based on Muslim precepts). The power of these laws has remained active for centuries, but had been curtailed under British colonial rule. Now they're back in force. The sharia courts "impose strict punishments such as death for adultery or sodomy and amputation for theft."

Ok, hold on a second. I consider myself to be very tolerant of different cultures and understanding of customs that differ from my own - different practices are often quite intriguing and can tell me a lot about that culture and the ways they think. But I just can't get on board with death for adultery or amputation for theft. Sure, these things are not good to do as they hurt other people (either emotionally or monetarily). But whatever happened to prison (for theft), or exile as a feasible option if somebody does something that doesn't fit with your culture's mores (make it someone else's problem)? What about the Amish practice of shunning? Just pretend the person isn't there, they don't exist for you.

Do you think that the laws against adultery are equally applied to men and women? I'd be really surprised if they were. Historically, women committing adultery have been treated MUCH more harshly than men.

We watch movies like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and think "oh my god, they're cutting people's hands off" but we "know" that it's a story about a past era, that we've reached a more "enlightened" time (if I can say that without sounding condescending - I don't mean enlightened as in how "we" do things. But rather, enlightened in that we don't force our will physically upon someone else, unless they've done something unmentionable like murder, rape, that kind of thing). But it's still really happening.

So, ok, I'll bet you that cutting people's hands off would be a deterrent for certain kinds of theft (white collar, armed robbery, that kind of thing), unless someone just figured that their plan was so perfect, they wouldn't get caught. But it's the really poor people who are stealing food for their family to eat that will be hit hard. No, I'm not condoning theft. But if the kids are hungry and crying, and there's no work to be had, I don't think that possible amputation (if caught) is going to prevent the theft of some food.

I understand that most religions have a problem with homosexuality. I don't agree with their negative view of it, but they're entitled to feel that it's wrong, I suppose. Just like abortion - people are entitled to be pro life. But my take on it is this - if you don't like it, don't do it. As long as it's not harming anyone, why should they get all in a murderous snit about it? If it's not accepted in their society, that's fine, do the whole exile/shunning thing. But to kill people for being homosexual?

Ok, so this is the extreme. It does say in the article that only one man, a convicted murderer, has been hanged under sharia law since it was enacted in 2002. So it could that adultery, sodomy and theft are punishable by death and amputation on the books only - much like there are some states in the US where there are anti-sodomy laws still on the books (couldn't tell you what the punishment for that is, or what states, just that I've heard that they're there....). But it looks like they are taking these 18 men to trial for dressing as women. Now the question is, if they didn't catch them in any homosexual acts, could they enforce the sodomy laws? I certainly hope not, because death for cross-dressing just seems so far out of proportion as to be ludicrous.


Queequeg said...

Hi, me again...
While reading your text I was just wondering all the time why you didn´t say anything about death punishment is the US.
It becomes really hard to point a finger on other countries. Be it torture in China, this in Nigeria etc.

The Lethological Reader said...

That's a very good point about the death penalty in the states. However, here in the states, the death penalty is only ever given for multiple counts of murder. We would never give the death penalty in the States for something like adultery or sodomy. Now, that may be a value judgment, because in some other cultures adultery and sodomy are on the same order of magnitude as murder. But in my mind, they're not even close. Sodomy (as long as it's consensual) doesn't hurt anyone else. Adultery may emotionally hurt the cuckolded husband, but it doesn't physically injure anyone.