24 August 2012

Free in the Middle East

Living in the Middle East and being gay is no picnic. Gay people face torment and persecution from all angles. People have their civil liberties striped away because of who they love.  Israel has become the only country in the Middle East where gays can live freely and openly; gay people are also offered equal rights as heterosexuals. While Israel prevails as the leader of gay rights, there are flaws with gay marriage and the treatment of gay Palestinians.

There are many countries in the Middle East where homosexuality between consenting adults in private is not illegal. Gays are not persecuted under the law and honor killings still happen depending on  the circumstance. Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Cyprus, and Jordan are some of those countries which have legalized adult gay relations in private.

In most of the Middle Eastern countries homosexuality is illegal.  The punishments vary on the country involved and the severity of the crime.  Homosexuality crimes are punishable by time in prison, corporal forms of punishment, and even the death penalty. Israel was one of the first countries to overturn the buggery law in 1988. However, there is no record that the law was ever enforced in Israel. Israel was the first country to abolish restrictions on openly gay soldiers serving in the military, a whole 20 years before the repeal of "don't ask ,don't tell"

Israeli laws are very tolerant towards gays and gay relationships except with marriage. Israel has the highest percentage of supporters of same sex marriage of all the countries in the world. Homosexual marriages are governed by the same religious precepts that discriminate against Jews marrying non- Jews.  Israeli law does recognize same sex marriages elsewhere in the world. It is the only country in the Middle East and Asia to do recognize Civil Unions.

Out Magazine named Tel Aviv ˝the gay capital of the middle east˝. Tel Aviv is known as one of the accepting and gay friendly cities in the world.  Tel Aviv ranks third after San Francisco and Bangkok. However, most of Israel is careful to preserve the culture within the country. If traveling to Tel Aviv make sure to visit the gay pride festivals and the beautiful gay beaches.

There are many positive things that can be said about Israel. But in the West Bank and Gaza Strip there is a darker side to this country. Gay Palestinians don't have the luxury of coming out openly here. For they often face discrimination and brutal violence. They hide their homosexuality for fear that it could be discovered that they are homosexual, even the suspicious glance could cause horrible circumstance.  Palestinian authorities have reported that if gay Palestinians come out openly within their communities; they will face a horrifying reality.  Violent tortures by other men in their communities and even their own families.  All of this is because of their choosing to be open about who they are and their sexuality. Other homosexuals have reported harassment, or have been accused of being an Israeli collaborator, labeled as a prostitute, disowned, or even put to death. In a pursuit of protection many homosexuals from Palestine flee to Tel Aviv.  Once in Tel Aviv they can live with their Israeli partners to openly express their sexuality. Many homosexuals flee to Israel but hide from the police because they are in the country illegally. Gay Palestinians who illegally enter Israel and are arrested are promptly deported. They are then returned to the same environment which they were trying to run away from. Their lives are put at risk and face further dangers. They will be questioned not only for their sexuality but also their choice to spend time in Israel. In Palestine and surrounding Muslim cultures consider gays to be anathemas. While with Israel liberal democracy, despite differences between various elements of society people can live and do as they please.

Israel has become one of the leaders of civil rights, despite their geographical location in the Middle East. Israel is considered to be one of best places for gays to live. Israel does not grant civil unions or marriages to gay couples, but they will provide homosexuals the same rights as straight couples.

Tell me your views on Israel and the achievements in Human Rights? And about their neighboring gay Palestinians who desperately need help? If you like check out my previous post about "Being gay in the Middle east" here!

Thank you for reading! And share your thoughts!
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