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Any punishment for lesbian conduct?


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Tevet 9, 5781
According to answers I have found on , lesbianism is forbidden on the basis of Vayikra 18:3. R. Huna in Yevamot 76a also forbids women engaging in lesbian acts from marrying a kohen for being zona, some Tannaim and Amoraim must have then had a stricter view of lesbianism. There is no mention though of any sort of punishment for such a violation unlike the penalties for sodomy and bestiality. If they were seen as a zona, could such women be punished with death? Philo of "saw the prostitute as a pest, a scourge, a plague-spot – she who has corrupted the graces bestowed by nature, instead of making them, as she should, the ornament of noble conduct (Spec. 3.51) and differentiated Jewish law on such matters from what he claimed were the norms of his world: Other nations are permitted after the fourteenth year to deal without interference with harlots and strumpets and all those who make a traffic of their bodies, but with us a courtesan is not even permitted to live, and death is the penalty appointed for women who ply this trade." The Yevamot 55b argues though that only intercourse, in the strict sense told be absent between women, could be used as grounds for the applicability of death in sexual transgressions. Merely asking out of sheer curiosity. Was there any sanctioned punishment for lesbianism and maybe other sexual transgressions shy of intercourse?
ב"ה Shalom The Rambam says that although the act of lesbianism is forbidden, nonetheless, since it is not specified as a prohibition of its own but only included under the category of "Do not follow the ways of Egypt…" (Vayikra 18: 3) it does not warrant the punishment of "Makkot" = flogging which were given for the transgression of negative commandments. This is due to the technical reason that Makkot are not given to a general and unspecified prohibition which includes many different acts. (Not because the transgression is not severe.) This punishment, is in regard to that given by a court of flesh and blood. This does not exclude Heavenly punishment. In the same chapter in Vayikra 18 :229, when summing up all the acts of sexual perversion, the Torah says: …whenever anyone does any of these disgusting perversions[all] the people involved shall be cut off [spiritually ] from the midst of their people" All the best
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