Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of sodomy



  1. Referring to "unnatural" sex acts, including copulation, either between two persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act is known as "bestiality"). Most countries outlaw bestiality but homosexual activity is gradually being decriminalized.

Related terms

Definition of sodomy


    From Sodom, where the Bible, in Genesis chapters 18 and 19 and elsewhere, suggests sexual depravity.


  • IPA: /ˈs'dəmi/


sodomy (uncountable)

  1. immorality in general
  2. any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural, particularly bestiality.
  3. anal sex


Derived terms

Further reading

Sodomy is an "anal or other copulation-like act, especially between males or between male persons or between human being and animal", and one who practices sodomy is a "sodomite". The word is derived from the "Sodomites", the inhabitants of Sodom, a "wicked town" described in chapters 18 and 19 of the Bible's Book of Genesis.

Legal usage

In current usage, the term is particularly used in law.

Laws prohibiting sodomy have been a standard feature of sexual morality in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic civilizations, but the term has little modern usage outside Africa, the Islamic countries and the United States. In the various criminal codes of the U.S. the term "sodomy" has generally been replaced by "Deviant sexual intercourse", which is precisely defined by statute. These laws have been challenged and have sometimes been found unconstitutional or been replaced with different legislation. Elsewhere, the legal use of the term "sodomy" is restricted to rape cases where anal penetration has taken place.

Islam: law and culture

While the Quran clearly disapproves of the sexual practices of the "people of Lot," ("What, of all creatures do ye come unto the males, and leave the wives your Lord created for you?"), only one passage can be interpreted as taking a particular legal position towards such activities: "As for the two of you who are guilty thereof, punish them both; and if they repent and improve, then let them be. Lo, God is relenting, merciful." Hadith (reports of Muhammad's sayings and deeds from those close to him in his lifetime) on the subject are inconsistent, with different writers interpreting the Prophet in different ways. Shariah (Islamic law) defines sodomy outside marriage as adultery or fornication or both, and it thus attracts the same penalties as those crimes (flogging or death), although the exact punishment varies with schools and scholars. In practice, few modern Muslim countries have legal systems based fully on shariah, and an increasing number of Muslims do not look to shariah but to the Quran itself for moral guidance. For sodomy within marriage the majority of Shiite interpreters hold that (l) anal intercourse, while strongly disliked, is not haram (forbidden) provided the wife agrees, and (2), if the wife does not agree, then it is preferable to refrain.

Despite the formal disapproval of religious authority, the segregation of women in Muslim societies and the strong emphasis on virility leads adolescents and unmarried young men to seek sexual outlets with males younger than themselves. Not all sodomy is homosexual, but for many young men heterosexual sodomy is considered better than vaginal penetration, and female prostitutes report the demand for anal penetration from their (male) clients.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     salacious
2.     prima facie
3.     landed property
4.     lex situs
5.     lex fori
6.     respondent
7.     charge
8.     beyond reasonable doubt
9.     lex causae
10.     entitlement