TURING: The case for a boycott

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Despite reasonable arguments to the contrary, it is better stay away from homophobic countries.

The United States, not particularly known for its gay rights record, surprised a good many people in 2005 when its State Department, in its annual report on human rights, included for the first time a list of countries guilty of LGBT abuses.

A painful evidence of the Bush administration’s hypocrisy, it may well have been.

But, irony aside, it told you which countries you might not want to go on a holiday if you’re gay.

As Turing penned this article, Nigeria is all set to stone more than a dozen young souls to death purely because they’re gay.

Sure enough, it’s not a surprise. AIDS is attributed to immoral behaviour there, and gay-bashing might well win the politicians the political mileage they crave.

Worse still is Iran, the self-proclaimed bastion of moral purity, where irrational faith takes precedence over human rights.

At least 25 people have been executed there for homosexuality in the past three years.

Just as Western Europe and parts of the United States take a turn for the better, countries elsewhere are becoming homophobic on quite an unforeseen scale.

Beheadings and fatal lashings are still common in Saudi Arabia.

Sri Lanka, where male homosexuality alone was illegal (as if that wasn’t bad enough), is outlawing female homosexuality as well.

Its neighbours in the Indian sub-continent are well known for their homophobia.

Then there’s Poland, which, thanks to a rather mute Europe and a recent infiltration into the Union by an unholy alliance of the far-right, has brought back memories of Section 28 for the British, who just celebrated 40th anniversary of decriminalising homosexuality.

Call it a cliché, but these are the best of times, these are the worst of times.

Europe, which, by constitutional definition, is gay-friendly insofar as it does not criminalise it and opposes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, is spineless in remaining mute over Iran and Nigeria.

Did anybody hear Messrs Brown, Sarkozy, Barroso or even the great Mr. Zapatero cry foul over the recent executions?

Substitute gay with religion or race of any kind, and you’ll see these people competing with each other to pass out messages of condemnation.

Given this hypocrisy, would Turing recommend a complete boycott of all the homophobic nations, whether for a holiday, or otherwise (should that option be viable)?

Unabashedly yes. Why go on holiday to a nation where you cannot express your love for a fellow human being because of historical and religious prejudices and bigotry?

Why conduct business with them if you can help it? Why put your gay green into their economy?

A straight couple, well known to Turing refused to go to India purely on these grounds. And hey, even our straight heart-throb, Brad Pitt, refused to marry till us gays got the right to do so.

There are very good arguments against what would be seen as a gut-response to state-sanctioned homophobia.

It might even seem, dare your columnist say it, naïve. For one, it may not seem practicable, particularly to avoid business with them-who these days would want to cut ties with India because its law guarantees prison sentence for gay men?

The laws or the religion of a country may not always reflect the attitudes of its people.

Spain happens to be a Catholic country, where most people actually support gay marriage.

Besides, shouldn’t we gays be helping out our brothers and sisters in homophobic nations across the world?

Shouldn’t we be standing up for gay rights in Nigeria and Iran?

Alas, the most common reason touted for and against this boycott is, will it make any difference? The answer, it must be conceded, is probably not.

Why bother to boycott then? Simply because you still have the chance of spending time in a foreign prison, simply for suspicion of being gay.

Your columnist was born and brought up in a homophobic nation, and knows that insofar as the mind-set of a nation remains assuredly homophobic, politicians wouldn’t have the will to change anything with regard to sexuality.

So, any illusion of rapidly effecting changes in countries like India and Iran is surely misplaced.

The best hope for gay men and women there to lead free and open lives is to seek asylum in one of the more tolerant nations; not a protest organised by international forces in their homeland.

That, of course, is easier said than done, for immigration is a sensitive subject even for a normally welcoming population like Britain or Holland, and elements like racism and Islamophobia are quite common across Europe.

If recent events, particularly in Russia and Poland, are anything to go by, the best hope of effecting change is through education and international pressure.

No matter how good your intentions, your presence in a homophobic nation is at your own peril.

While the cause is perhaps worth sacrificing lives for, if the effect is tantamount to a stalemate, then it is certainly not worth the lives thus sacrificed.

Turing has more personal reasons for boycott. He does not wish to even visit a country where he cannot be his real self; where he is compelled to hide his sexuality, and worse, to deny it; where his love for his potential partner (yes, your columnist is single, any takers?) would be seen as an aberration; and where, in essence, he is totally unwelcome.

Egypt may have its pyramids; and India its Taj Mahal (ironically an eternal symbol of love).

But, Turing will neither sacrifice his love nor himself just for money or to go sightseeing.

P. S. In case you were wondering, the ten countries singled out by the US were Uganda, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, UAE, Cameroon, Poland, Nepal and India, in that order.

Considering the source, the US is obviously excluded. If it were human rights abuses at large, Turing would certainly put the US in the top ten; as for gay rights, why not eleventh (Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and New Hampshire excluded)?