Schouten Island, Tasmania

Justus Schouten, Councillor, Dutch East India Company

Schouten Island was named in December 1642 by Dutch explorer Abel Taman after Justus Schouten, councillor of Dutch East India Company.

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch East Indies Company arose as the Netherlands established and then expanded a mercantile and colonial empire in what is now Indonesia. Schouten played a major role inb thius expansion. Schouten was born in the Netherlands and emigrated to the Dutch East Indies in 1622. Over the next two decades, Schouten established a formidable reputation in colonial trade and diplomacy.

He became involved in manufacturing and trade within a Siamese Dutch East Indies Company factory enclave in Ayutthaya in 1624 and shortly thereafter became secretary to Willem Janssen on the latter's exploratory trade and reconnaissance visit to Japan in 1625. He became involved in manufacturing and trade work in a Dutch factory enclave in Attahaya, Siam (Thailand) and became a secretary to Dutch diplomat and envoy Willem Janssen as the latter embarked on a trade and reconnaissance visit to Japan in 1624. Back in Siam in 1633, he provided assistance to the King of Siam in diplomatic negotiations in that year, enabling further trade concessions and expansion of factory space as a result of its success.

By 1640, he had returned to Batavia and served on the Council of the Indies for elite mercantile and commercial interests within the Dutch East Indies Company. In 1642, he equipped Abel Tasman for his expedition to the Southwest Pacific, which was to circumnavigate Australia and lead to the European discovery of New Zealand. It was on that voyage that Tasman ighted and named Schouten Island after him.

During the time of their colonial expansion, the Netherlands were still under conservative Calvinist control, which meant that 'sodomy' (any non-procreative sexual activity, which meant gay sex in this instance) was illegal and subject to capital punishment. After the Dutch East Indies Company was established in 1602, Dutch mercantile and colonial activity grew apace in what is today Indonesia. The colonists and merchants were mostly male, as it proved difficult for other than previously married women to settle on the colonial frontier of the time. This meant cross-cultural marriages were frequent, as well as occassional enterprising Dutch sex workers. The Dutch East Indies Company also proved a sanctuary for gay men fleeing Dutch homeland persecution, as long as they remained discrete, given the considerable attractions of this male-only environment.

Despite his services to his country, and his high standing as a successful merchant and administrator, Schouten's world fell apart in July 1644, after a disgruntled male shipmate accused Schouten of sodomy, a crime punishable by water or fire. He confessed to the crimes and offered no defence. After being tried and convicted of consensual gay sex, his sentence was mitigated in light of his distinguished record. The colony's Governor-General, Anthony van Diemen - after whom Tasmania was originally named - ordered that he be strangled before being burnt at the stake. At least three of his male sexual partners were subsequently tied in sacks and drowned.