In response to a request from Dianne Silva of the Daily Mirror – Sri Lanka [express your views on the statement by David Cameron, threatening to withhold aid from countries which have anti-gay legislation. The full story can be found here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15511081 ]

David Cameron - CHOGM 2011

I suspect the report is an exaggerated version of what Mr Cameron had said, since I cannot believe he is so silly. Such a claim would be as gross as an Arab country refusing to give assistance to countries that banned polygamy.

I would not want to introduce polygamy in Sri Lanka, and equally I believe that legislation against homosexual activity in private is a woeful legacy from the British period that we should get rid of. However in a multicultural society there must be cultural sensitivity. Though Buddhism and Hinduism have always been enlightened about personal morality, some interpretations of what are termed the received religions (handed down from God) oppose homosexuality. Though Christianity has by and large become more enlightened, some Christians, as well as some Muslims, believe discrimination against homosexuality is a divine injunction. I think it is wrong that such beliefs should be imposed on others, but given that in many countries this was done as a result of British prejudice in the 19th century, making changes is not easy. I believe when this was tried, in the nineties, when Prof Peiris was Minister of Justice, a coalition

Simon Hughes MP

of extremist Christians and Muslims opposed it, and the consequence was that lesbianism, which the British had not criminalized because Queen Victoria could not conceive this was possible, was also criminalized.

Unfortunately, I was told, only Neelan Tiruchelvam spoke in favour, but with luck more, given our cultural and religious traditions before the British got here, we will end such discrimination in the future. But Britain must realize that there are some countries where feelings run high because of what is still seen as god’s command. He should also realize that even in Britain prejudices run deep. For instance one of the leading lights of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, ran a nasty campaign to enter Parliament, targeting his Labour opponent Peter Tachell who was a pioneer in the Gay Rights Movement. Hughes later admitted to being homosexual himself or rather, as his admirers put it, bisexual, another exemplification of underlying prejudice.

I can sympathize with the Ugandan who said there are more important things to worry about. Unfortunately some campaigners for gay rights confuse basic freedoms with concepts such as gay marriage, which one can understand causing irritation, even though the expression of such irritation through violence is appalling. That is where I feel  the basic view that individuals should not be oppressed by society if they do not disturb others must be supported, trespassing on the sensititives of others with regard to rituals and what appeals to religious sensibilities should be avoided. Exercising political or financial muscle simply to impose one’s own views on others seems to me wrong, and I think we would all find it worrying if others with equally strong convictions tried to make all countries accept polygamy – or even polyandry, which was practiced in Sri Lanka and which other countries may now turn to given problems about gender ratios.

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