I've been reading (and find myself intrigued by) the latest edition of Foreign Policy magazine.
When U.S. magazines devote special issues to sex, they are usually of the celebratory variety (see: Esquire, April 2012 edition; Cosmopolitan, every month). Suffice it to say that is not what we had in mind with Foreign Policy's first-ever Sex Issue, which is dedicated instead to the consideration of how and why sex -- in all the various meanings of the word -- matters in shaping the world's politics. Why? In Foreign Policy, the magazine and the subject, sex is too often the missing part of the equation -- the part that the policymakers and journalists talk about with each other, but not with their audiences. And what's the result? Women missing from peace talks and parliaments, sexual abuse and exploitation institutionalized and legalized in too many places on the planet, and a U.S. policy that, whether intentionally or not, all too frequently works to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity. Women's bodies are the world's battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out. We can keep ignoring it. For this one issue, we decided not to.
The issue contains several very interesting articles on the subject. I certainly don't agree with all of the points made by all of the authors, but they challenge me to analyze my disagreements and take a fresh look at the subject. There are also surprising nuggets of information that I'd never suspected - for example, this one:
Iran's Sex-Change Solution
In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously proclaimed to an audience at Columbia University that "in Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." This is certainly not true, though the Iranian government does its best to make it so by meting out harsh punishments -- homosexuality is a crime and can be punishable by death -- and through its surprising policy of tolerating what is known as "sex-reassignment" surgery.
Sex-change operations have been legal in Iran for more than two decades, ever since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa authorizing them for "diagnosed transsexuals." As of 2008, Iran carried out the second-highest number of sex-change operations of any country, after Thailand. Many procedures are undergone by young gay men who fear imprisonment or death if they persist in seeking same-sex relationships.
When it comes to homosexuality, "Islam has a cure for people suffering from this problem," Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, the cleric responsible for sex reassignment, told the BBC. He added that while homosexuals are doing something unnatural in violation of Islam, a sex change is no more sinful than "changing wheat to flour to bread."
There's more at the link. This and all the other articles are highly recommended reading.