Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rum, Sodomy & the Lash
Among Hong Kong's sputtering attempts to reach the last half of the 20th century has been a Supreme Court (here they call it "High Court") case wherein an openly gay guy had the terminity to challenge the consitutionality of the city's antediluvian age of consent laws.
I'll break it down as simply as I am able. The basic age at which a Hong Konger can can legally engage in sexual activity with another person of the opposite sex is 16. If you're a lesbian or female "bi-curious" 16 is okay, too.
But until Billy Leung challenged the law, if you were a gay guy you had to wait until you were 18 and one could conceivably get life in prison if the government really wanted to make a case out of it. Last year, a lower court judge found for Leung's argument that the law was unconstitutional and discriminatory. Duh.
Then there's what they call "buggery." Really. Most of the rest of us call it sodomy, anal sex or riding the Hershey highway, I guess, but bugger me if it's actually called "buggery" here. That's another weird bunch o' legal crapola. Buggering is okay only at 21 and that goes for everyone. Even in private among consenting under-21 buggerees, buggerettes and buggeroos.
But the government being what it is and hating to lose as it does has mounted an appeal -- the first day of which I covered yesterday.
What interested me more than the fact that the HK Dept of Justice's case was pitifully weak, resting as it does on vague, bizarre ''what-if" scenarios and technicalities, was that it was the first courtroom I'd been in where the lawyers and judges wore wigs. Up close, they are grotesque and crude looking, woven out of what appears to be bleached horse hair or perhaps cast-off twine from an Albanian-Urantian radioactive twine manufacturing joint venture.
Basically you had a lot of self-important looking officials -- the foreigners mostly bloated, florid and reptilian-like, the Chinese who looked as if they were at "United Kingdom Judiciary Dress-up Day" -- in flowing black robes and wearing what looked like prehistoric animal skins on their heads. Some of the wigs, mostly on the older men, also appeared to be stained or dyed with urine, casting a glowing yellow pallor that I've previously only seen in pictures of terminal hepatitis victims or while pissing after eating a lot of vitamins. I was told later by a veteran HK court reporter that it's a point of pride for a long-time lawyer or judge to have an especially filthy, discolored, ratty tangled one as it shows they've been parsing legal matters and using their wig to scour bus station toilets for ages.
But the best part was when they began discussing "buggery" and "gross indecency" in sonorous, solemn Brit/Aussie accented tones -- in particular one government shill, a pompous lizard I'll call "M" whose stained head nest was slowly sliding to the left off his patchy haired head ("Gross indecency is preparatory, if you will My Lord. A stepping stone, as it were, to other acts, such as buggery") -- and I felt as if I was an extra in a Monty Python movie.
The urine-soaked wigs probably resulted from what the Brits colourfully call 'taking the piss'. I heard you had to be at least 23 before you could legally engage in that kind of thing.
Only if you're drinking it. You can be 18 to sell it, but only if you're straight.
There is an Australian expression "pissheads". However, this does not refere to standing on one's head in tubs of urine, even though Hong Kong lawyers may be known to do this at times. Rather it pertains to an affection for "piss", which in Australia means beer. This may be a proletarian comment on the quality of beer in Australia.
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