Library Dissertation Showcase

Empire, sodomy and the HIV epidemic: the relationship between British colonial anti sodomy legislation and the spread of HIV/AIDS

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

In this dissertation I shall bring together three seemingly random concepts in the study of International Relations: ideas of Empire and a post-imperial world; anti sodomy laws; and the impact the HIV/AIDS crisis has had around the globe. I shall argue that these three ideas have intersections that play an important part in how many people around the world live today.
The British empire has left many legacies in post-colonial nations. Perhaps the most significant of these was the Indian Penal Code brought into force in 1860 in India and later exported around the empire where it still forms the basis of many statute books. This attempt to homogenise the colonies into a British sensibility included Section 377 – the prohibition of carnal acts ‘against the order of nature. This piece of legislation has, in several forms and variations, seen sexual minorities become vilified, feared, and exposed to harm.
I shall explore how international actors such as governments, religions and conservative NGOs, as well as more chaotic international events such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, expose those who live in the subaltern. I shall argue that thirty plus years, and many billions of dollars, later HIV is still aided by Section 377 in the effects it has on the lives of many who fall by the margins in post-colonial countries by exploring three nations: India, Singapore and Uganda.
I shall finish with a brief summary of where the land now lies for HIV prevention, treatment and research and how, if at all, it might be possible to decolonise both HIV and sodomy.

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