Today we’ll explore the historical influence of LGBT-related laws in Ancient India, Ancient Israel, and Assyria. Although many of these societies existed at the same time, they treated homosexual activity very differently — ranging from no big deal, to a minor fine, to death. Why was there such a broad range of views regarding homosexuality? Well, the answer is religion. The answer is always religion.
Ancient Indian law punished any non-vaginal intercourse whether a person was homosexual or not. Notably, however, unlawful heterosexual behavior was punished much more severely. Older texts place a larger penalty on taking a woman’s maidenhood than anything else. But in Ancient India, the fines for homosexual behavior were typically minor — and morality was rarely mentioned in religious texts important to Hinduism.
Assyria was another society in which homosexual behavior seemed to be no big deal. In fact, sexualized crimes did not differentiate between homosexual and heterosexual behavior — you were prosecuted for the same crime either way. An Akkadian tablet read: “If a man copulates with his equal from the rear, he becomes the leader among his peers and brothers.”
This meant that consenting adults even of the same sex could legally have anal sex with one another, and it might even have been seen as a “lucky” event. Notably, it was more frowned upon in lower social classes or in the military than it was in the upper tiers of the social hierarchy.
And then we come to Ancient Israel, where we transition from homosexuality as “no big deal” to homosexuality as “you need to die.” Ancient Israeli law stems from the Torah, where several passages seem to suggest that men who have sex with one another are actively subverting God’s will. Thus, those who were found to have violated these biblical laws were most likely put to death as a result.