A good post by Lorenzo on the “homosexual panic defence” and what it means for the status of women and gay men. Please go and read it.
I would add that homosexual panic defence has become an issue again after a recent case in Queensland where one of the defendants attempted unsuccessfully to claim the homosexual panic defence (i.e. that the unwanted advance by a man of the same gender was provocation which provides a partial defence to murder). It was found that there was no homosexual approach on the facts, and that the defence shouldn’t apply. However, there is an argument that provocation as a defence should be abolished altogether, regardless of the gender of the parties involved, and it has been abolished in my home state of Victoria.
There is a gendered aspect to the provocation defence generally. Almost all of those who successfully claim that they killed during a temporary loss of control are men. When women kill men in a domestic situation, it tends to be premeditated and in response to prolonged domestic violence, and it has become notorious that it is very difficult to extend provocation to this situation because there is not the requisite sudden loss of control. For whatever reason, women tend not to kill after losing their temper.
I’ve never heard of a woman killing a man (or a woman for that matter) for an unwanted advance. I must admit, I did slap a guy once when he grabbed my bottom in a very aggressive and unpleasant way in a night club, and he backed right off (ran like a rabbit would describe his response nicely) but that’s the extent of any violent urge I have experienced myself. But I think women are generally much more used to putting up with unwanted advances, and develop techniques for dealing with it. This became evident when my husband tried out Second Life for about half an hour after Telstra had some kind of free offer. For some reason, he chose a female avatar. During the half an hour he tried out the game, he was repeatedly propositioned by men, and he was totally freaked out by the predatory nature of the approaches. [It didn’t help that he couldn’t work out how to put clothes on his avatar and she was walking about naked – am I a bad wife for laughing until the tears came?]
It came to me then that this was a situation which men don’t often have to face, and they don’t have a social framework of response. In addition, women simply don’t seem to be threatened by homosexuality in the same way as men are, as the statistics in Lorenzo’s post indicate. Thus, when one couples the fact that many men simply have no idea how to respond if there is an unwanted advance with the fact that some men are very threatened by homosexuality, it means such men may lash out with extreme violence, particularly where there is alcohol and drugs involved and the defendant has poor impulse control.
It is unacceptable in our modern day and age that someone could get away with murder (literally) by saying that they were the victim of a same-sex approach. To kill a person for making an unwanted advance is simply not a proportionate or appropriate response, and there should be no excuse for it. I would encourage the Queensland government to consider doing away with the provocation defence altogether, as it is a defence which operates in a manner such to disadvantage both women and homosexual men who are the victims of violent crime. (There is an online petition here, started by the priest in whose churchgrounds the Queensland case above occurred, for those who want to sign it).