First mentions of homosexuality (1852 - 1923)

Author: Queer Memory — 16.3. 2021 — Share on Facebook / Copy link

1852. The Austrian Criminal Code comes into force on the territory of today's Czech Republic.

Its § 129 defines homosexual intercourse as "fornication against nature." It is punished by a prison penalty of one to five years.

On the territory of the Czech lands, same-sex sexual intercourse has always been considered a crime. Until 1787, the Criminal Code in rigour ordered death sentence to those who committed it; after 1787, different lengths and different sentences of imprisonment were used against homosexual individuals.

Image in header: A letter by Károly Kertbeny, where the term "homosexual" is mentioned for the very first time.

1869. In pamphlets calling for decriminalisation of homosexuality, the word “homosexuality” is used for the first time.

It consists of the Greek word homo (same) and the Latin word sexus (sex). The author is Károly Kertbeny, a Hungarian publicist.

Károly Kertbeny

1878. On the territory of today's Hungary and Slovakia, the Hungarian Criminal Code enters into force.

In its § 241, it describes sexual intercourse between men as "fornication against nature". The convicts were sentenced for up to one year in prison and up to five years if the sexual contact had been inflicted by force. The law did not mention sexual intercourse between women, which was therefore not punished.

1895. The poet and literary critic Jiří Karásek from Lvovice publicly declares his homosexuality.

Before the First World War, the first initiative to decriminalise homosexuality was formulated by doctors inspired by modern European medicine, who argued that homosexuality should not be punished, but treated (Bělohradský, Kuffner, Haškovec and others). Some publicists also viewed homosexuality based on a humanistic perspective (Bouček, Kisch ).

The poet and literary critic Jiří Karásek from Lvovice was the only public personality to get involved in the debate, declaring that he was gay. He spoke about it publicly in 1895, in relation with the affair of the British playwright, Oscar Wilde. There were no other known homosexual personalities in the Czech lands at that time.

Jiří Karásek from Lvovice

1918. The end of the First World War results in the fall of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and emergence of new states.

1923. A draft of a new criminal law that would decriminalise homosexual intercourse has been swept off the table. The state also prohibits the establishment of a homosexual association called Scientific and Human Society.

The main proponents of the decriminalisation were the lawyer František Čeřovský and the sexologist Hugo Bondy, who publicly drew attention to this issue. Lawyers argued that the "homosexual paragraph" was often abused to blackmail people, be it for financial, political or other purposes, and doctors argued that homosexuality should not be punished, but rather become the object of scientific research and be treated.

The representatives of "sexual minorities", the so-called “menšinári”, who referred to the results of the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, a German sexologist, unanimously argued that homosexuality was innate and incurable.

Author: Queer Memory
Published at: 16.3. 2021

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