Every Monday, The CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are featuring the documentary, Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World (2003) by Human Rights Watch.
“If I were to tell you who I am, then I’d be digging my own grave.” – Anonymous
Offering an excellent portrayal of the vast atrocities committed against the human rights of the homosexual and transsexual communities in the developing world, this documentary by Human Rights Watch effectively uses first-hand accounts and interviews to illuminate the realities of the lives of people who are often classified as subhuman in their countries due to their sexuality and/or sexual orientation. Dangerous Living details the realities of living in the developing world through the use of a very particular case study: the Cairo 52. The Cairo 52 was a group of 52 gay Egyptian men who were arrested onboard a floating gay nightclub for charges of debauchery, since the Egyptian government held no formal laws against homosexuality.
The film is separated into three main sections, with the first setting the tone of the international environment in relation to gay, lesbian, and transsexual people. In comparison to the East, the West (i.e. North America and Europe) is perceived to be a much more supportive environment for gay, lesbian, and transgendered people. However, the film highlights the transition that this population has made in recent years to become a more visible community where people can bond over orientation as well as similar lifestyles and relationships.
Shiting to focus on the persecution of gay, lesbian, and transgendered people in developing countries, the second section details this abuse from aspects of society such as the government, police, and legislation throughout the developing world. This general global disgust of those deemed as living a life of immorality forced many to go into exile and seek asylum in Western countries.
The final section shows the lives of the people who sought refuge in foreign countries. The focus on these asylum seekers as well as those still in their home countries allows the viewer to gain a holistic perspective on the future environments of these people. The case studies and personal reflections of people coming out in developing countries highlight the emergence of a global paradigm shift–a movement to end the human rights abuses committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.
Ending on an uplifting note, the documentary encourages the viewers to continue their activism, advocacy, and support for gay, lesbian, and transsexual people. This film is an excellent introduction to the realities, social norms, and environments that exist for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual people in the developing world. This film shows how Human Rights Watch is actively working to end human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or gender identity.