Monday, May 28, 2007

Noted in the News: Religion, Gender and Sexuality

A lot of religions seem to have major hangups about women and gays. A bunch of stuff about both issues (enough to get a blog post out of) all swam into my personal universe on the same day. So here it is.

First, from Iran: Islamically correct bicycles for women -- velocipedes with partial cabins so good Muslim men can't be tempted into paroxysms of lust by the sight of (burka-clad!) female legs pumping those pedals. Geez, guys: take a cold shower or something. Riding a bike wearing an oversized robe must be hard enough already.
[Hat tip to Ooblog]

Next, from Pakistan: Shumail Raj and his wife
Shahzina Tariq have been jailed for three years. Their crime? Shumail is trans-gendered (female-to-male), and despite the fact that he has had sex-change surgery, he's not man enough to satisfy the Pakistani legal system, which considers same-sex marriage "un-Islamic". They were deemed to have lied about Shumail's gender, and accordingly were convicted of perjury. (Perhaps not surprisingly, it was her family who laid the complaint -- talk about the In-Laws From Hell!)

But it's not only Islam that is letting its hangups hang out today. Gay Teletubbies aren't just for Jerry Falwell any more. Ewa Sowinska, the Polish government official responsible for children's rights, has ordered psychologists to investigate whether the pre-school TV show is corrupting its audience by promoting homosexuality. This move is consistent with a recent pattern of homophobic policies by the government of this deeply Catholic country. Back in March, Minister of Education
Roman Giertych introduced a bill to ban "homosexual propaganda" in Polish schools. The children! Please think of the children! Giertych is head of the League of Polish Families party. Why is it, anywhere in the world, it seems that any political party with "Family" in its name, it's invariably a synonym for "Reactionary Bigots Party"?

One country over, an attempted gay rights parade in Moscow was broken up yesterday, first by Russian Orthodox and nationalist thugs who beat up the marchers -- and then by the police who arrested the beating victims and allowed their assailants to walk away (among those detained were Members of European Parliament). Unfortunately, this is hardly surprising in a city whose mayor has described homosexuality as "Satanic". Encouragingly, the mayors of London, Paris and Rome have written to Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov deploring the violence.

But there's always a counter-current to the forces of oppression. Yesterday in Toronto, a dissident Catholic group called Womenpriests ordained five women (and a married man). The ordinations were carried out by Bishop Patricia Fresen. It hardly needs mentioning that the RC Church recognizes neither Fresen's status as bishop, nor any ordinations performed by her. I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. On the one hand, as my Christian phase recedes ever further into the past, I find internal church disputes over arbitrary claims regarding fictional matters increasingly irrelevant and uninteresting (especially in a denomination I never belonged to anyway). But on the other hand, given the institution exists, I think it would be a good thing if women could participate in an equal basis in the mythology of their choice.

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