Claims in Tom Daley’s BBC programme which stated homophobia across Commonwealth nations originated from colonialism have been deemed ‘grossly false’ by a historian.
Four-time Olympic medalist Daley, who came out as gay in 2013, toured ‘the most bigoted nations in the Commonwealth’ for his documentary, Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me.
In the broadcast which aired last night, Daley said, ‘homophobia was a legacy of colonialism’ during his conversation with campaigners advocating for equal rights.
But researcher Dr Zareer Masani, who left Mumbai in the 1970s owing to the persecution he encountered there as a homosexual man, told MailOnline: ‘Homophobia did not begin with the British Raj, it started hundreds of years earlier.’
Dr Masani, an academic and researcher on British colonisation, added: ‘Under Hindu and Muslim law individuals were murdered for being gay.’
And a politics instructor has alleged the Olympian’s programme encouraged ‘ahistorical rubbish’.
‘Hinduism, Judaism and Islam precede the British Empire: the ‘stem’ of homophobia is religio-cultural,’ he noted.
‘I have been advised that sport and politics shouldn’t mix but at the same time you have to recognise what’s going on around you,’ Daley says in the BBC One programme, which aired Friday night.
The Commonwealth athlete claimed that addressing the topic on his documentary with one guest, a ‘very controversial’ Pakistani popstar, offered him a fresh viewpoint.
‘It opened my eyes to so many different things, where the laws originated from, where the homophobia sprang from in the first place and it is a legacy of colonialism and chatting to him in particular was quite eye-opening.’
But, Dr Masani has argued that homophobia in India predates British control and has long survived it and warned Daley to, ‘leave the history to the historians.’
He stated that although India has made progress towards becoming a more open and welcoming culture in the previous 75 years there has been ‘some rowing back of that under the current leadership’ and there is ‘still a lot of homophobia’
‘People don’t come out, parents do not accept their kid being homosexual,’ he added.
‘It is not an issue of legislation, it is a question of society.
‘[Daley] should place the burden on individuals today, not on the British Empire.’
Dr. Masani hasn’t seen Daley’s documentary since he’s in India right now.
“It seems to me like he’s on a sort of LGBTQ crusade… because he came out and now he wants to promote it throughout the Commonwealth,” he added of Daley.
However, a lot of people in the public praised the star diver for the documentary last night on Twitter, with many referring to him as a national treasure.
Just getting it out there now before the hatred begins, one person wrote. Tom Daley is a national treasure, and according to BBC Sport and BBC One, it is unlawful for him to be me.
We don’t deserve #TomDaley, said another. What a brilliant, composed, and attractive young guy he is. #loveislove’
The 28-year-old declares at the beginning of the documentary that he wants to prevent nations with anti-LGBT legislation from hosting the games.
I realise that’s a strong ambition, he admits, but change must begin somewhere.
Daley said, however, that his opinion that nations with anti-LGBT legislation should be barred from hosting sporting events had altered during an interview for it.
Speaking on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, Daley said that homophobic nations should be permitted to hold athletic events because doing so “puts a bullseye on the back of LGBT people.”
In his words, “Coming in and saying ‘we can’t host a competition’ puts a bullseye on the back of LGBT people in that nation as in ‘they are the reason why we can’t host this competition’.”
“So being able to approach it with less oppression and giving people the chance to learn and grow in a way that, for example, having the pro-LGBT rights stance at the forefront of the Commonwealth games ethos for example narrows out certain countries that would be able to host it for example,” the author said.
Not that they can’t host it, but they must prioritise it in line with their mindset.
In order to provide athletes and spectators with “a symbol of safety,” the athlete proposed that nations with homophobic legislation be urged to fly rainbow flags at sporting events.
Here in the UK, we take our privilege and the fact that we sometimes see rainbow flags for granted, but for individuals in the Commonwealth whose existence is illegal, that flag represents protection and offers a glimmer of hope.
“Being able to incorporate LGBT flags in stadiums and at athletic events so that those individuals feel comfortable, accepted, and visible, as well as being able to provide access to the appropriate help and safety measures if their life is in danger.”
In the documentary, Daley interviews Nigerian campaigner for LGBT rights Bisi Alimi, who left the nation after coming out on television since same-sex conduct was illegal there.
Alimi displays the Nigerian law from 1923 that lists “indecent actions between men” as a criminal.
He says that in Nigeria, this subsequently came to be known as “the homosexual legislation.”
He said that the legislation was enforced by Britain and stated that the time it went into effect, homosexuality in Nigeria became a punishable offence.
The athlete then queries Alimi as to why Nigeria has not overturned the legislation.
You must realise that it is more than simply written law. It was included into the curricula of schools and into the colonialists’ use of religion to educate the “natives.”
Then there is the post-colonial development of Evangelicals, who continue to hold the view that homosexuality is wrong.
It’s a complicated picture, according to political science professors Enze Han and Joseph O’Mahoney, who authored a significant book on the subject titled “British Colonialism and the Criminalization of Homosexuality.”
In their writings, they highlight how the British Empire began enforcing laws against males engaging in personal relationships in 1860, leaving behind what they refer to as a “institutional legacy.”
In their study, they examined “the still widely held belief that British imperialism ‘poisoned’ nations against homosexuality,” however they claim that the evidence for this claim is “at best equivocal.”
According to their article on The Conversation, “We looked in some depth not just at the historical roots of these nations’ anti-homosexuality legislation, but also at the present political processes that have so far stopped some of them from repealing the laws.”
Based on our study, we contend that the evidence supporting the assertion is, at best, inconclusive.
Former British colonies do not seem to have decriminalised gay activity any more slowly than colonies of other European governments, among former colonies having laws similar to these.
This shows that the “stickiness” of oppressive institutions is generally constant across all nations and histories, and is not unique to a particular kind of colonialism.
Many Twitter users have questioned the connection between British colonisation and anti-LGBT discrimination, pointing to hardline religious nations as the ones who criminalise homosexual sex the most often.
Great to hear Tom Daley on @BBCr4today – a brilliant athlete – not sure homophobia in certain nations is fully a “legacy of colonialism,” commented attorney Rupert Myers.
Ethiopia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia were never colonised and have rampant homophobia.
Benjamin Butterworth, a journalist, said that “Britain has to correct its past wrongs” and added that “@TomDaley1994 is right that Britain propagated homophobia over the Commonwealth.”
According to official statistics, as of July of last year, legislation criminalising homosexuality were in place in 35 of the 54 Commonwealth nations.
Daley, who did not participate in this year’s games, has said that he plans to spend more time promoting homosexual rights after now realising the struggles that other LGBT sportsmen face.
I was eating a burger with my husband and mother while competing in the Commonwealth Games and had just won a gold medal.
He told The Big Issue, “I realised I don’t have to worry about any of the consequences of that.”
I reflected on my good fortune. Because it is unlawful to be gay in more than half of the Commonwealth nations that are participating.
“It’s when I began looking into how that might be fought against and what the sporting community could do to assist impact that.”
Because sports really have the potential to affect change.
While touring the Commonwealth, Daley—who is married to and has a kid with Oscar-winning director Dustin Lance Black—listened to the hardships of LGBT athletes.
One of the Pakistani athletes told me that I was the first openly homosexual person she had ever met, he claimed.
She and I both started crying when I informed her that I had a husband and that we send our baby off at nursery.
She had this fleeting thought about what it would be like to be able to have a wife and children.
She was asking me a lot of questions about how I could help her leave the country. Therefore, even though it will be a heavy documentary, it will contain important information.
In another interview with BBC Radio 4, he said, “I received an anonymous letter from a gay male athlete that again talks of suicide, talks about how they’re never going to fit in, and talks about how there’s no hope for the future that they are ever going to be themselves.” Some of the tales were quite difficult to hear.
The medalist from the Commonwealth Games said that he hopes to “persuade it to become the first athletic event to genuinely take a position” with the documentary.
The diver, who in July was awarded the OBE for his contributions to diving, has now talked with the head of the Commonwealth Games Federation to advocate for reform.
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