Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Justus Uitermark & Peter D. A. Cohen
Decriminalization refers to the removal of a state's classification of certain behavior or action as criminal and subject to the criminal law. However, this simple definition hides profound social and political processes that usually precede legal reform. This becomes readily apparent when we look at the list of behaviors whose criminal status has been lifted or at least discussed. For example, religious beliefs, which people now commonly consider a personal rather than a juridical matter, used to be controlled by the criminal law. Closely associated with the freedom of religion is the freedom of speech and association. In some countries today there are certain opinions that, by legal sanction, cannot be expressed, and there are certain types of organizations that are not tolerated by the law. The most notorious examples here exist in dictatorships, but many examples also are present in democracies. Many Asian countries, for instance, forbid sodomy and ...