Homosexuality is the tendency to be sexually attracted to persons of the same rather than the opposite gender. In the Buddhist scriptures homosexual males are called asittapaõóaka and females are called women of uncertain femininity (sambhinna) or masculine women (vepurisikà, Vin.II,271). Today male homosexuals are called gays while females are referred to as lesbians. According to the ancient Indian understanding, homosexuals were thought of simply as being `the third nature' (tçtãya prakçti), rather than as perverted, deviant or sick.
With its emphasis on psychology and cause and effect, Buddhism judges acts, including sexual acts, by the intention behind them and the effect they have. A sexual act motivated by love, mutuality and the desire to give and share would be judged positive no matter what the gender of the two persons involved. Therefore, homosexuality as such is not considered immoral in Buddhism or against the third Precept. If a homosexual avoids the sensuality and licence of the so-called `gay scene' and enters into a loving relationship with another person, there is no reason why he or she cannot be a sincere practising Buddhist and enjoy all the blessings of the Buddhist life.
None of the legal codes of traditional Buddhist countries criminalized homosexuality per se, although, of course, there were penalties against homosexual rape and homosexual acts with minors just as there were for similar offences committed by heterosexuals. In most Buddhist countries today, homosexuality is usually considered strange although not wicked or evil. Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, China, Vietnam, Mongolia, Japan and South Korea have no laws against homosexuality between consenting adults. Homosexuality is illegal in Burma and Sri Lanka mainly because their legal codes were in part drawn up during the colonial era. Recently in Sri Lanka, the penalty for homosexuality was increased in an ill-considered response to the growing problem of sex tourism in the country. See Sexual Behaviour.