GIN-SSOGIE co-hosted a UN side event on Pre-Colonial Societies on Gender and Sexuality

 

On May 16th 2019, then UK Prime Minister Theresa May made history by issuing a poignant statement acknowledging Britain’s role in codifying discriminatory, anti-gay legislation across its former colonies. “As the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister I deeply regret both the fact that such laws were introduced and the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today.”[1]Other former colonial powers introduced similar legislation to the nations they colonized, enmeshing discriminatory laws, policies, and social practices in the fabric of those societies.

GIN-SSOGIE is working for national and international human rights fora to increasingly take into account these shared histories—especially the harmful legacies of colonization—for these systems to become truly and deeply inclusive, just, and equitable. Because colonial legal codes, political and religious systems, and patriarchal cultural mores and narratives still very much inform and influence laws, policies, and social practices in many former colonial territories. These foreign systems and narratives were imposed on and eroded existing legal, political, and religious institutions, and erased indigenous sexualities, genders, and expressions.

 

Today, sexual and gender minorities across the world today still suffer discrimination, inequality, injustice, and violence due to the persistence and perpetuation of patriarchal and heteronormative colonial laws and worldviews. This impact is worsened by political and religious representatives hijacking discourses of cultural relativism and religious freedom to oppose the promotion of human rights in different corners of the world, including at the UN. The cooptation and corruption of human rights language and traditional values by anti-rights actors necessitates a response undergirded by rights-affirming faith narratives and inclusive, pre-colonial traditional values.

Such narratives and traditions often reveal strong acceptance of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions (though sometimes inherently patriarchal). Many pre-colonial traditions did not make modern-day distinctions between sexuality and gender, but created cultural spaces for those who did not conform to binary gender roles or heteronormative sexualities. Part of GIN-SSOGIE’s work is to promote such historical narratives, including at the UN. As such, this month, GIN cooperated with Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) as well as the delegations of South Africa and Iceland to organise a side event at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council session, to explore the concept of traditional values shaped throughout history and specifically by pre-colonial perspectives on gender and sexuality. We invited 4 speakers, from Nepal, Algeria/France, New Zealand and South Africa to examine different regional approaches and cultural interpretations of sexuality by exemplifying differences across geographies and traditions, levels of acceptance and tolerance, and intra-cultural strategies to overcome stigma and discrimination.

You may watch the video here.

[1]William, J. (April 17th 2019) “Britain says regrets role in anti-gay laws among former colonies” Reuters.com

URL: https://www.reuters.com/article/britain-chogm-may/update-1-britain-says-regrets-role-in-anti-gay-laws-among-former-colonies-idUSL8N1RU20B