Human rights wrongs

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Indeed, Oscar Wilde was lucky to face the charges he did - sex with teenage boys - at the end of the 19th century rather than the end of the 20th. For his "crimes," Wilde received two years in prison. In America today, Wilde would suffer up to life imprisonment without parole in many jurisdictions. If released, the late-20th century Wilde would be tracked for life on a sex-offender registry. After his sentence, he could be subject to lifetime confinement in a mental hospital. In some US states he would face mandatory lifetime parole. He would probably be labeled a "sexual predator," forced to report to the police every 90 days for life, with his home and work addresses broadcast on TV or distributed by police on posters. He could be subject to electric shock "therapy" and lie-detector tests to reveal the nature of his fantasies - and sent back to prison if he "failed." He could be forced to wear electronic bracelets or computer chips in his body, be prohibited to travel beyond a 30-mile radius of his home, restricted in his associations, forced to take known carcinogens for chemical emasculation, or be physically castrated. [...]

Another case in which IGLHRC [International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission] was silent: Francesco Vallini was an editor at Babilonia, Italy's national gay and lesbian magazine. He joined Babilonia's staff shortly after they published an essay describing his life as a gay high school student. Vallini also helped found Gruppo P, a pederast discussion group, and he edited its newsletter. Police surveiled the group's mail, and in April 1993 raided Vallini's home and the offices of Babilonia. In July 1993, they arrested Vallini on vague charges of "conspiracy to commit crimes" and of alleged sex with minors. Babilonia's protests that Vallini was purely a political prisoner fell on deaf ears. Conditions at Milan's overcrowded San Vittore prison were so bad that Vallini went on a hunger strike in late 1994 to protest, and had to be hospitalized. When authorities finally held a trial, they dropped the sex charge, leaving only a conspiracy count, based on Vallini's organizing, writing, and publishing. Vallini was convicted, but released in summer 1995, pending appeal. After his conspiracy conviction was upheld by a higher court and Vallini was ordered back to prison, he fled Italy, and now lives in exile.

Italy's jailing of Vallini was protested in a draft of a report prepared in 1995 by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based group which documents human rights abuses against members of the press. But the CPJ dropped Vallini's case from their report's final version. "His treatment was extremely unfair as it was handled by the Italian court," says Jeanne Sahadi, a CPJ spokesperson. "But it didn't meet our criteria as closely as we wanted." Vallini's case fell victim to the skittishness mainline human rights groups show around queer issues. IGLRHC was founded to counter that timidity, but though encouraged to take action, the group never criticized Vallini's imprisonment.

source: "Human Rights Wrongs" by Bill Andriette;; The Guide; July 1998