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Death and Homosexuality: The Unrecognized Genocides

Death and Homosexuality: The Unrecognized Genocides

Tom Henheffer

St. Thomas University

7 April 2009

There have been four distinct periods of crime committed against homosexuals in the past century. Homosexuals were victims of genocide during the holocaust. After this, they became victims of what some may call a “psychological genocide,” where the western medical world tried to wipe out their lifestyle. Currently, homosexuals are targeted for death and life imprisonment in over a dozen countries. In the future, some scholars fear that in utero testing, combined with research in the human genome project, and discrimination, will lead to the total destruction of homosexuality in some areas. Genocide has been a near constant for homosexuals in the 20th century, and it shows no signs of ending, but the international community has failed to recognize the plight of gay men and women. Homosexuals have no document in international law protecting them from discrimination, and sexual groups are conspicuously left out of the genocide convention. For justice to be served, the genocide convention must be modified, but it must be done so effectively, without becoming overbroad. The psychological genocide provides a good test for overbroadness.

This modification will be very difficult, it will have to be the end result of a long process of human rights advocacy and new human rights documents; many attitudes will have to be changed in the world before this can happen. But the convention must be modified so the genocide of Nazi Germany can be recognized, the criminality of homosexuality on pain of death or life imprisonment cam be eliminated, and human rights can become prepared to handle the future consequences of genetic research.

Homosexuality has been a part of human society since before recorded history. The first evidence of it in human culture comes from cave paintings and sexual toys from 12,000 BC. In western culture, homosexuality has always been synonymous with Greek culture. In 620 BCE Sappho was born (Stuart 5). This female poet, from the island of Lesbos, is believed to have been the first female writer to express desire for the same sex. The term lesbian also comes from the island on which she lived. Socrates, born in 470 BCE, was one of the world’s most influential philosophers, and he was known to be bisexual (5). The warrior Spartan culture also encouraged sexual relationships among men. Even Leonardo da Vinci (6) and Oscar Wilde (Stonewall 1) were both tried and persecuted for homosexuality.

It has only been in more recent times that homosexuals began to undergo systematic and government sanctioned discrimination. As Doris Bergen states in War and Genocide, “in the ancient world certain types of intimacy between people of the same sex did not carry any stigma or preclude sexual relations with members of the opposite sex,” (22). 1290 saw the “first mention in English common law of a punishment for homosexuality,” (Stonewall 1). Ten years later there was a “treatise in England prescribed that sodomites should be burned alive” (1). However, the term homosexual was not coined until 1869 in Germany (1). This discrimination and punishment came to a head in Nazi Germany.

Germany was not a particularly tolerant place before WWII. Homosexuality was outlawed in 1871, and remained so until 1970 (22). But after WWI Germany developed a vibrant, and some might say outspoken, gay culture (Bergen 23). It had a large homosexual club scene and was host to the Institute for Sexual Research, run by the homosexual gay rights activist Magnus Hirschfeld (23). The publicity and openness surrounding the gay scene in Germany may have been part of its downfall. As Bergen says, “for others it seemed to represent the decadence of a society that had abandoned its traditional values,” (23). This meant that homosexuals could be easily victimized, and that they would have no friends when the Nazis came to power.

Hitler himself seemed to have few problems with gay men before the war. His long-time, right-hand man, Ernst Rohm, was openly gay. He was the head of the 2.5 million strong SA (70-71). It was not until the morality of Rohm’s sexual preferences could be expediently used against him that Hitler chose to begin a campaign of hatred against homosexuals. It was a familiar pattern Hitler used, building support for his cause by inciting hatred against marginalized groups (23).

The Nazi persecution of homosexuals started suddenly and escalated rapidly. With the overt and vibrant gay scene homosexuals were an easy target. Bergen says, “many Germans regarded homosexuality as deviant and decadent and urged their government to crack down,” (57). Thanks to the law of 1871, homosexuals were also criminals, and the Nazi’s considered gay public officials to be easily corruptible targets for blackmail (57). Bergen says that Nazis, “struck in dramatic, decisive ways, but they always tested the public response to each move before proceeding further,” (57). This was a litmus test for Hitler; he could start his campaign of hate by attacking the most easily marginalized group in Germany. Then it would be easy to escalate and attack other groups, Roma, Jews, etc. In this way, the persecution of homosexuals was instrumental in bringing about the preconditions for the holocaust and World War II.

The raids started in 1933. Nazis closed down gay clubs and arrested those inside, sending them to the concentration camp at Dachau (66). Students then destroyed Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research. As Bergen puts it, “the German public was indifferent or cheered such offensives,” (58). Hitler saw his people did not care, and he could continue with his plan.

The Night of Long Knives came in June of 1934 (70). Hitler used it to remove Rohm, as he was afraid Rohm was gaining too much power. Many high ranking Nazi officials were murdered, anywhere from 150 to thousands. It was called “a cleanup of the movement, a necessary measure against decadence and perversion,” (71). Hitler got a telegram from President Hindenburg congratulating him, his military leaders supported the move, the German people did not care and the German government even made the actions retroactively legal (71). Similar tactics were later used to oust Frieherr Von Fritsch, the head of the German army, in 1936 (80). All of this was able to happen because of the culture of discrimination in Germany; the murders were wrapped in the idea of restoring morality, of removing homosexuals, the decadent and deviant. Gays had no place in the Third Reich; they refused to do their duty and reproduce. This is of course extremely ironic. If homosexuals did not reproduce, they could not possibly be a threat to future generations. But that did not matter to the Nazis.

As war continued, more homosexuals were put into concentration camps. Nazis called them antisocial parasites and enemies of the state (US Holocaust Memorial, Denunciations). They relied on denunciations, and then used torture to force victims to denounce others (US Holocaust Memorial, Denunciations). The camps were difficult and often deadly for everyone interred, but they had especially brutal conditions for homosexual men. Marked with pink triangles (Bergen 189), gay men were marginalized even by their fellow inmates. There was a hierarchy in concentration camps; the bottom was reserved for Homosexuals, Jews and Gypsies. Gays were isolated and tormented. They received especially harsh treatment from homophobic prisoners Nazis put in charge of them (189). They “suffered severely from torture, beating, and medical experimentation,” (192). And their situation would only get worse. [1]

Before the war, gay men were generally put in prisons under definite sentences. At the wars beginning, their sentences were expanded and they were moved to camps, at first for re-education, and later for labour and death. Unlike most other prisoners, gay men were sometimes able to leave some camps. They had the option of castration and reassignment to heavy labour or front-line duty (192). In one camp they would be released to labour duties if they renounced their sexuality and managed to “perform,” with a prostitute (192). But this did not change their status as victims of genocide, this seemingly preferable treatment was a ruse, it only changed the method the Nazis would use to destroy gays.

In 1942, there was a new, specific policy for dealing with homosexuals. It was called, “extermination through work,” (US Holocaust Memorial, Persecution and the War) and was directly issued by Heinrich Himmler, head of the Nazi SS. Although not the same method as the gas-chambers, this campaign had the same goal of eradication. It demonstrates a clear intent by the Nazis to wipe out homosexuals in Germany and its occupied territories.

In all 50,000 men were arrested for “charges related to homosexuality” (Bergen 191) during the Nazi regime. During the war approximately 5-15,000 were put in camps (US Holocaust Memorial, Protective Custody). About 5-7000 died during the war, probably half of them in concentration camps (Bergen 192). Although these numbers are low, it represents one of the highest per-capita death rates of prisoners in WWII at an estimated 60 per cent (192). Political prisoners suffered only 41 percent losses, Jehovah’s witnesses 35 percent, (192). Overall in Europe, 67 percent of Jews were murdered.

Unfortunately for homosexuals, their situation after the war frequently went unimproved. Prejudices against gays were still rampant in many countries. Homosexuality remained illegal in Germany until the 1960s (193). Bergen says, “illegality and social stigma account for the silence that shrouded the treatment of gay men in Nazi Germany until the 1970s and 1980s,” (193). As of 1997, homosexuals had still not received an official apology from the German government (Benetto). It is incredible to think that a country so obsessed with not reliving the mistakes of its past could, for decades, deny the victimization of an entire group of people during WWII. Even worse than this, many gay men were liberated from concentration camps, then tried and sentenced again by occupiers, and thrown into other prison camps.

It is easy to analyze the human rights situation of homosexuals in Nazi prison camps; there were no rights. Basically every tenant of every human rights convention and declaration was violated by the Nazis. The human dignity of those men and woman, dignity being the source of all rights, was as close to being nullified as possible. They had no freedoms or liberties, no freedom of thought, speech or assembly, no security of the person, no freedom of religion; they were as dehumanized as any people have ever been. The only source of dignity these prisoners had was from the fact that they were human beings. Their rights were clearly violated, and a horrible crime was committed against them. But the question remains, did homosexuals undergo genocide during WWII?

The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (herein referred to as the genocide convention) defines genocide as, “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such,” (Article II). These acts are,

(a)    Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (Article II)

The order from Heinrich Himmler that homosexuals were to be exterminated through work clearly shows and intent to destroy on behalf of the Nazi government. This meets the first requirement of the genocide convention. Homosexual men were killed, caused serious bodily and mental harm, and they were placed in situation calculated to destroy them, especially when they were sent to labour camps. This easily meets three of the 5 conditions for genocide in article II. So it seems that the case for calling this a genocide is very clear cut.  However, in order to be a victim of genocide, the genocide convention says that one must be a member of a targeted “national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II). Sexual groups are not included. This means that the treatment of homosexuals during the holocaust is not recognized as such under international law. But what happened to homosexuals was genocide. The lack of recognition in international law is arbitrary, unjust and most likely a product of the prejudice against gays that still existed when the genocide convention was written (and which still exists in many places of the world today). The genocide convention is lacking and must be reformed so that this genocide is recognized, so that ongoing genocides can be stopped, and so possible future genocides can be prevented. However, this change must be done extremely carefully. In order for the genocide convention to remain effective, it cannot be overbroad. The aim of this essay is to further outline the position of homosexuals as victims of genocide, and to provide context and recommendations for creating effective human rights protections.

As evidenced above, homosexuality was not considered amoral, criminal or a disease until fairly recently in western culture. Gender identities were not always so rigid, but once they became stringent homosexuals were in for a world of trouble. After the common outlawing of homosexuality in western society, and after the genocide against homosexuals during WWII, came the psychological war on gays. This started when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), was published in 1952. Until the DSM was modified in 1973,

homosexuality was a certified psychological disorder by virtue of the fact that it was registered as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders (DSM), the primary diagnostic manual for the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric

Association. (Rixecker 115)

As a disorder, psychologists treated homosexuality like cancer, something in need of a cure. Non-heterosexual behavior was considered to be an affliction that people could suffer from (Rixecker 114). The disease had to be cured, so people could again “lead a normal, useful life” (Rixecker 115). There was an argument over how to treat homosexuality; Scientists were not sure if homosexuality was due to, “genetic mutation- or poor environmental conditions-e.g. psychological disorders brought on due to a poor childhood” (Rixecker 115). This led to many different forms of treatment under the blanket label of “conversion therapy” (Rixecker 115. Treatment methods included, “masturbatory reconditioning and aversion therapy. … social skills training, cognitive restructuring, hypnosis, (and) abstinence training” (Cramer 95). Some treatments went so far as to use, “electroconvulsive therapy, surgical interventions (e.g., lobotomy, castration, ovary removal), and hormonal therapy (e.g., steroids, androgens…” (Cramer 95). Today, many of the less invasive techniques are still used, and the frequency of religious techniques (like prayer and threats of damnation) has greatly increased (Cramer 95). Unfortunately, there are no clear numbers on the amount of conversion therapies performed at any time in history (Cramer 95).

The most extreme forms of conversion therapy are very obviously harmful, and sometimes in a physical as well as mental way. However, less extreme forms are still known to cause harm. Firstly, they are almost never successful, instead they just “decrease the overall sexual arousal of participants” (Cramer 101). They are also known to increase shame, conflict, fearfulness and vulnerability to conformity. More severe (but still very common) side-effects include, “long-term sexual dysfunction, lowered self-esteem, loss of family and religiosity, and elevated depression and anxiety” (Cramer 101).

As previously mentioned, homosexuality is no longer categorized as a disease in the DSM. The American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychiatric Association are generally both opposed to conversion therapy (Cramer 94). However, conversion therapy still continues, and has not been specifically outlawed by the APA, thanks to lobbying from some pro-conversion therapy members (Rixecker 116). Many doctors still believe in conversion therapy and are constantly lobbying the APA to loosen its guidelines toward the practice.  The strongest lobbyist for the re-mainstreaming of conversion therapy is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). The organization’s goals and ideas are not based on fact or justice, but it is still a powerful force. As Rixecker says, “NARTH was instrumental in challenging the American Psychological Association’s recent attempts at imposing a professional sanction on those who perform conversion therapies” (116).

The conversion therapy of the 50s through to today is not an isolated incident. It reveals a culture of discrimination against homosexuals that has led to stigma and violence. During that time psychologists attempted to eradicate homosexuality. Like annihilating cancer, homosexuality was a blight that doctors tried to erase. In a culture like this, the rights of gay men and women were often violated. The right to security of the person under article 3 of the UDHR is violated by the harm caused by conversion therapy. Some forms of CT, such as aversion therapy, which often leads to sexual dysfunction, or electroshock, or removal of parts of the body, can be easily labeled as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under article 4. The attempt to change sexual orientation is an encroachment on the freedom of thought under article 18. Article 7 is violated by the clear discrimination against homosexuals evident in the DSM’s definition of homosexuality as a disease, and article 8 is violated because no effective remedy for these crimes has ever been given to homosexuals. Other rights are also violated under the UDHR and other international human rights treaties, but they will not be discussed for the sake of brevity.

It is clear that CT and the culture around it led to many violations of the rights of homosexuals. But the real question is whether or not this psychological attempt to eradicate homosexuality can be called genocide. The answer is no. As a group, there was no “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Genocide Convention Article II) homosexuals. The target was homosexuality itself. During WWII Nazis tried to destroy Jews, not just Judaism, and homosexuals, not just homosexuality. Also, none of the five conditions of the genocide convention were met by the “psychological genocide”. The third condition is, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Article II). The APA did try to bring about the destruction of the condition of homosexuality, but again, not homosexuals themselves. As such, defining this era in western medicine as genocidal goes too far. It is not true to the idea of the genocide convention.  Modifying the convention to include this incident would certainly lead to over broadness and a sharp decrease in effectiveness. But research into the psychological non-genocide is still useful, as it can be used as a test to prevent over broadness when modifying the genocide convention. It proves that there is no reason to modify the five acts in article II.

Behind the idea of homosexuality as a disease is the concept that it is somehow immoral, decadent, or abnormal. This concept has led many countries to criminalize sodomy and lock up “practicing” homosexuals. Same sex unions are legal in only five countries in the world, sodomy is illegal in 70 (Amnesty International love, Hate and the Law). This is a problem inherent throughout the world; sodomy was illegal in many US states until the laws were repealed by the Supreme Court in the 2003 case Lawrence vs. Texas (SodomyLaws.org, USA Laws). Sodomy often has a broader definition then sexual acts between same-sex couples, but frequently is only enforced against homosexuals (SodomyLaws.org, USA Laws). These laws reveal a culture of hatred and discrimination, but are not genocide. However, the argument for a genocide against homosexuals can be made in the case of thirteen countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  Each of these countries has not only outlawed homosexuality, but has made it punishable by death or life imprisonment (Amnesty International). Also, Islamic Sharia law, which is practiced in parts of many countries, carries a penalty of death by stoning for an act of homosexual sex (Gay Law Net, Nigeria).

Genocides may also be ongoing in other places. Although homosexuality is not punishable by death or life imprisonment in the country, there have been claims made that the government of Columbia has specifically targeted homosexual men for destruction. The murders are carried out by the Columbian police force, who either kill or disappear men known to be gay (Rixecker 122).  In the late 80s, 328 gay men were killed in the city of Medellin alone (Rixecker 122). A male prostitute is quoted as saying, “the only program the government has for (gay men) is a program to kill us” (122). There is also an unlabeled genocide ongoing in Iraq.  Shia death squads are rampantly murdering men suspected of being gay and children forced into same-sex prostitution (Copestake). The murders are considered honor killings, and as such are not punishable by Iraqi law (Copestake). The killings began when a fatwa against homosexuals was issued by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani  (Ireland).

This is an example of a law enacted against homosexuals from Uganda. Section 145 of the penal code says that anyone who:

(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature;
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.

It is interesting to note that under this law, two consenting adult men engaging in sexual relations are committing a crime equal to bestiality. That dehumanizing comparison is a common feature of the laws in many of these countries. Laws like this help to foster discrimination, and create an environment where dehumanization makes genocide possible.

A government legislating death or life imprisonment onto a distinct social group clearly reveals “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Genocide Convention Article II). The same intent is revealed in the gay fatwa in Iraq, and possibly the first-person accounts of police murders in Columbia. The death penalty meets the Genocide convention’s first condition, “killing members of the group” (Article II A), as do the killings in Iraq and possibly those in Columbia. Life imprisonment meets the second condition, “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Article II B), as the ultimate end of life imprisonment is death.

Unfortunately for the victims of these crimes, their deaths and sentences do not meet the standards of international law. Again, this is because homosexuals are not, as a group, members of “a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” (Article II), as required by the genocide convention. Once again, homosexuals are left in the dark without any defense in the international community. This is not justice; it is an arbitrary and prejudicial exclusion. These genocides are a severe threat to human dignity, and are crimes against humanity that, at least indirectly, affect every person on the planet. The government legislation itself is a violation of that right from which all others flow, the right to human dignity. When governments specifically targeted  Jews in Germany or Tutsis in Rwanda for death, the actions were labeled genocide. But when a government targets homosexuals, who have no choice in deciding their sexuality, just as a person cannot choose race, they are not protected by the genocide convention. This makes no sense. Like political groups, homosexuals are left out. But unlike political groups, homosexuals are much more vulnerable. They are too small a minority to band together and fight and they cannot choose to stop being gay.

There are some possible justifications for not including sexual groups in the genocide convention, but none hold any water. The first justification is that, unlike Jews or Tutsis, the child of a homosexual will not necessarily be a homosexual. This is irrelevant to the genocide convention, as the effectiveness of genocide does not matter, only the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part” (Article II). The second justification is that, unlike destroying all Jews or Tutsis, homosexuality would still exist even if all homosexuals were killed in a certain area. In the next generation, 6-10 percent of people would still be gay, as the causes of homosexuality are probably not entirely hereditary, and even if they are, straight people can still have gay children. But contrary to this justification is that same fact, the effectiveness of genocide does not matter, only intent is important in regard to international law. A possible third justification is that there simply aren’t enough homosexuals being killed to justify international intervention. This may be true; homosexuals are generally a small minority. But the size of targeted group makes no difference if the intent to destroy them is there. Also, including sexual groups in the genocide convention would create pressure for change outside of interventionist methods. Aside from a lack of international consensus, there is no reason to exclude homosexuals as victims. Their exclusion only allows genocides to continue, while making human rights impotent to prevent possible future genocides. And the future holds some very disturbing possibilities.

There is one final genocide left to discuss, the possible in utero genocide against homosexuals. This could be born out of increasing genetic and in utero research. It is thanks in large part to the Human Genome Project (HGP), which is an attempt to map the entire human genome (Rixecker 109). Rixecker says the project itself will ultimately “impact upon the scientific, medical, economic, political and cultural futures of all living and future human beings” (109). Of that fact there is no doubt. However, the way the HGP will impact humanity is debatable. The HGP has potential to lead to cures for certain types of cancer, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases. However, genetic research has already been controversial; its identification of down syndrome being linked to a chromosome 21 trisomy, combined with prenatal genetic screening, has led to women being able to abort children with the genetic disorder (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). There is a large ethical debate to be had around this type of research, a debate which could have serious consequences for sexual minorities.

Stephanie Rixecker, a human rights scholar and professor at Lincoln University, is very critical of the ethics surrounding genetic research and the HGP. She says there are not enough safeguards for the ethics of researchers. She says the laws and societal norms governing research are, “insufficient for protecting people who cannot defend themselves” (110). She also feels that, “ethics, law, policy, justice and human rights … are not sufficiently mature to handle and address the immediate (and long-term) consequences of the HGP” (109). Rixecker feels that in the end, economic interest may win out against moral and ethical interest (109). As the abortions resulting out of the test for Down syndrome demonstrate, the limits of morality are already being tested.

This ethical situation becomes even more interesting when it is turned toward sexuality. There is a division between scientists who feel sexuality stems from nature and those who feel it is biologically determined. However the standard today is generally that which is described in the DSM, that “human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight” (115). This suggests that there is at least some genetic element to homosexuality, most likely combined with other factors such as in utero chemical balances, and influences a child receives as he or she grows up (118). Many genetic researches are attempting to prove that homosexuality is mostly biological, or at least that it is the result of a biological precondition. Often this is done with the reason of ending discrimination against gays and lesbians by proving their sexuality is “natural” (110). The problem is that proving homosexuality is biological will not necessarily end any discrimination, and finding the genetic markers that indicate a precondition for homosexuality may have serious ethical consequences.

Research into the Xq28 gene has shown a strong link to homosexuality in some men (Rixecker 110, footnote 3), which provides some strong evidence that homosexuality is indeed at least partially genetic.[2] Despite the many factors that may contribute to the development of sexuality, the genetic evidence is particularly striking. When this genetic knowledge is combined with reproductive biology and in utero screening, it is possible to detect and abort fetuses that have the Xq28 gene (or possibly other genes that have yet to be discovered). In the future “genetic alteration and ‘enhancement'” (110) may also be possible. This means that mothers, who can already conceivably abort fetuses with a genetic predisposition to homosexuality, may actually be able to modify fetuses to erase that predisposition. Additionally they could possibly, “through the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis … embryo selection and cloning … and in vitro fertilization, pre-select for certain traits, including the lack of homosexuality” (110).  This obviously raises incredible ethical questions and could have serious consequences for the gay community. This is what Rixecker fears is the opposite side of the discovery of the so-called “gay gene” and one of the worst possible outcomes of the HGP. The techniques that could facilitate this situation are already in existence, and as the Down syndrome case demonstrates, have already been used to select fetuses for abortion. Rixecker says this means “the eradication of homosexuality in small cultural groups or on a global scale is theoretically feasible” (111).

So what does this mean in the real world, and with the current definition of genocide? In her essay Rixecker outlines a clear climate of hatred toward homosexuals in many countries. She notes that despite pressure from organizations like Amnesty International, the UN has not adopted any documents that provide significant protection for sexual minorities (120). The crux of the question is really this, will there ever be a broad campaign aimed at wiping out homosexuals, through the use of in vitro genetic manipulation or testing, in any specific country or area? The answer is a complex one.

If genetic testing and abortions/manipulation with the aim of removing homosexuality and homosexual children were made legal, the removal/modification of children with homosexual preconditions would probably not become required by law in any developed country. Some women who have had genetic testing done on their babies may choose abortion or modification, but many others would most likely make no change or not have testing done at all. The Down syndrome test has shown that governments and individuals are willing to let fetuses be aborted if they have a genetic disorder.  Homosexuality is not a disorder, which greatly undercuts the chances of abortion or modification based on sexuality, but does not totally eliminate the possibility. This does not mean a campaign to eradicate homosexuality could not exist in a developed country. Germany was one of the world’s highest educated and most cultured countries when Hitler came to power; with the discrimination that still exists today, one should never say never.

Genocide is probably unlikely in highly developed countries, but there is a stronger possibility that Rixecker’s genocide could happen elsewhere. This would most likely be in a country where homosexuality is crime punishable by death or life imprisonment. Most of those 13 countries are not yet developed enough to have the genetic testing and screening technology and use it on a broad scale. But India (where homosexuality is punishable by life imprisonment) and Pakistan (where it is punishable by death), might. It is not a long jump between murdering people for being gay and preventing gay people from being born.  In light of this, Rixecker’s genocide certainly is, at least, theoretically possible.

When these four “genocides,” are placed in context the picture that forms is one of horrible abuse to a vulnerable group across borders and throughout modern history. During WWII the Nazis set out to remove homosexuals, and other groups, from German society. The conditions that gay men were subjected to were as bad or worse as any other group. They were targeted for destruction, and underwent genocide. Homosexuals are still undergoing genocide in more than 13 countries, where they are either murdered or put in prison for life because of their sexuality. And it is conceivable that in the future, in certain countries or areas, generations of homosexuals could be wiped out through genetic screening, genetic modification, and abortions. Homosexuals are vulnerable and are currently not protected by international law, and this needs to change.

An effective international instrument is needed to protect homosexuals from genocide and other crimes. Gays and lesbians have undergone and still undergo treatment that would be considered genocide if they were one of the groups outlined in the genocide convention. There is intent to destroy, there is killing and there are conditions intended to bring about destruction. The most effective way to recognize past, stop current, and prevent future genocides, is to add sexual groups to the genocide convention alongside “national, ethnical, racial (and) religious group(s)” (Genocide Convention Article II). This can be done without making the convention overbroad. Hopefully, if this can be accomplished, it will serve to create international pressure and eventually result in the repealing of anti-gay laws and genocidal practices. Because gays are such a minority and targeted in so many countries, using force to end genocide is not really an option. But simply by recognizing the plight of homosexuals in international law will create some form of protection and justice, and raise massive amounts of awareness that can hopefully bring about change. But changing international law is a complex process, and the genocide convention must not be made overbroad.

The question of over broadness is where the “psychological genocide” must be applied. As mentioned above, it was not genocide and does not meet the requirements of the genocide convention. It would not meet those requirements even if sexual groups were included in the definition. This must remain so. The 5 criteria in article II of the genocide convention should not be removed, added to or changed. Changing them to recognize things like the psychological war against homosexuality would over broaden the convention and make it much less effective. This is where the line must be drawn. To reiterate, simply adding sexual groups to the first part of article II does not remove any power from the convention through over broadness and it stays true to the convention’s original purpose. It is adding to the 5 criteria of article II that would make it overbroad.

But there still remains one large problem. Many countries in the UN will never agree to adding sexual groups to the genocide convention, especially when 70 outlaw sodomy. Some Islamic countries, like Iran, refuse to even admit that homosexuality exists within their borders  (Daily Mail). This essay attempts to establish what justice dictates should be done in the case of the genocide convention. Adding sexual groups to the convention is just, but it is not practical in today’s world. But sexual groups still remain in limbo in terms of international law; there is no effective treaty which protects their rights As such, for practical purposes, a declaration, and eventually a convention, or possibly an optional protocol to the ICCPR,  must be drawn up to protect the rights of sexual groups and sexual minorities. This should take a similar form to the CEDAW and CERD. It must specifically outlaw discrimination based on sexual preference, declare that homosexuality is not a disease, and require governments to repeal sodomy/homosexuality laws and begin education campaigns to reduce stigma. This will help increase international pressure to end the stigmatization, stereotyping and hatred toward gays and lesbians. It will also help to gradually work toward a modification of the genocide convention that recognizes past, helps to end current, and helps to prevent future genocides.

Unfortunately, even something as simple as a declaration has little chance of entering into force in the UN. There are simply too many countries opposed to homosexuality. Change is possible, but it must be brought about gradually, through education and pressure from governments, NGOs, IGOs and individuals. Groups like Amnesty International and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission are already fighting to create pressure for an international document protecting the rights of sexual minorities. Unfortunately, so far they have been unsuccessful. But, to borrow a term from Rixecker, a new “social map” (123) must be created in the world. It is certainly an uphill battle, but it is one that is being and certainly needs to be fought.

In conclusion, it is evident that homosexuals have undergone and still undergo massive discrimination, hatred and even genocide. Their treatment in WWII was genocidal, their treatment in countries where their sexuality is outlawed on pain of death or life imprisonment is genocide, and it is possible that a genetic genocide could be visited upon them in the future. To serve justice and provide protection, sexual groups must be included alongside the other groups in article II of the genocide convention. This will help to recognize past, end current, and prevent future genocides against gay men and women. This change can be done without making the convention over broad or ineffective, and the psychological non-genocide can be used a test to draw the line. Changing the genocide convention will be difficult and probably take many years, and other steps will have to come before any modification. But change is possible, and for justice and human dignity to be served, change must come.

Works Cited

Amnesty International USA. “LGBT Status Around the World.” 2009. Amnesty International USA. 13

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[1] Lesbian women received different treatment. They were often ignored because they could be forced to reproduce and were not usually considered a threat. However, some were put in camps and others were forced to work in brothels (Bergen 187).

[2] This study, performed by Dean Hamer, has been disputed by a later study. However, this second study used a smaller test group made up of a different field of subjects. Hamer has stood by his research, and has conducted a second study which further confirmed the link between Xq28 and homosexuality, but only in men.


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