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Updated: December 21, 2013 19:38 IST

Who’s the criminal?

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Illustration: Satwik Gade
The Hindu
Illustration: Satwik Gade

Do away with celibacy first, says the author, if you cannot deal with homosexuality.

What’s unnatural and what is not? What’s harmful and what’s harmless?

 Sleeping on a bed is not natural. In nature, beds and mattresses are largely absent. Using computers to search for information is also, in the strictest sense of the word, unnatural. Some will even argue that both are not entirely harmless either.

Now let’s consider infanticide. As much as it horrifies you, it is quite natural in that it occurs in nature, in the normal order of things. Your neighbourhood cat will kill its sickly kittens to ensure that its meagre resources are used to ensure the survival of its healthier kin. Till very recently (and some will say, even nowadays), it is not unheard of for human beings to prefer one child over another. If one is poor and has a male and female child, the latter usually gets the short end of the stick. It is also not illegal to abort a child in India. Ascertaining its gender is illegal, but abortion isn’t.  Infanticide is natural, but clearly harmful and I don’t have to explain why. Surgically-assisted abortion is unnatural, but no one will argue against its usefulness in situations like rape or grinding poverty.

 Consider adultery or prostitution. Both are quite natural because men will be men and evolution has designed us to constantly pursue opportunities to spread our seed. Adultery is clearly not illegal, and prostitution, as surprised as you might be, is not illegal in India if it’s an individual selling sexual services (pimps and brothels are illegal, however). One can make persuasive arguments that adultery and, in effect, prostitution are socially harmful to the institution of marriage and quite clearly headed in a direction opposite to that mysterious entity called “family values”. So, natural, but arguably harmful.

So far, so good. Now let’s climb the fence into Moraldilemmaland. Is contraception natural? Hell no, it isn’t. By the veritable power of Darwin’s long beard, we know we have been put on earth, to quote a popular religious scripture, “to be fruitful and multiply” and thanks to the “unnatural” influence of healthcare and modern medicine, we have not just multiplied, but have also managed to sustain a geometric series so far. So contraception is clearly unnatural, but useful.

Let’s rewind back to the 1960s in the U.S. and consider inter-racial marriage. In many states till then, miscegenation (the mixing of races) was actually illegal under state laws. The arguments for keeping those laws went along the lines of “Black men marrying White women? That’s a violation of nature and all the family values we hold dear”. So while we are on the subject of family values, Sati was a cherished family value and treasured by society till better sense prevailed. Ishwar C. Vidyasagar had to work unnaturally hard to convince people that the gross violation of family values that was “widow remarriage” was quite OK at the turn of the century.

Finally, consider celibacy. It is quite possibly the most unnatural of all the things we have spoken of so far. It is more unnatural than sleeping on a bed, more unnatural than using a computer, more unnatural than abortion, more unnatural than adultery and more unnatural than inter-racial marriage. It goes against the very grain of mammalian evolution. We were put on this earth to be fruitful and multiply and to hold that seed back — like the Bhakra Nangal holding the Sutlej back — is a gross violation of “naturalness”. Some will say it’s a sacrifice, and they may be right, but it is unnatural.

But is it harmful? Um….

Yes, it is, if celibate people who are OK with abortions, contraception, sleep on a bed, come from a cultural history that publicly endorsed Sati and child marriage and don’t want to criminalise adultery and prostitution, still want to send two consenting same-sex adults to jail if they engage in carnal activity in the privacy of their bedroom.  The hypocrisy is so vast and so unnatural that it beggars belief.

So why are we so homophobic? Let’s explore the roots of this phenomenon. Clearly, homosexuality is natural since it’s been observed in over 1,500 other species (including our close cousins, the Bonobos). Homosexuality is more natural than contraception and both typically result in no progeny and, honestly, in this day and age, producing progeny shouldn’t really be mankind’s topmost priority. I would think we have made enough fruit salad to last an eternity, if you know what I mean.

So what is it that makes us so afraid of same sex couples? Is it that they will spread their “lifestyle” to our impressionable kids and they will in turn, “become” gay? Could I argue that, even if that was remotely true (and it is not), should we not keep our Brahmachari uncles away from our families? For fear that they might entice our kids away to a life of celibacy in Rishikesh?

I sometimes think that we confuse homosexuality with perversions arising from enforced and unnatural celibacy. We think prisoners “turn into” gay people. We think abusive priests are homosexual. We are deeply wrong. The former is a naturally occurring, harmless phenomenon, portrayed in sculptures in every Hindu temple and with zero harmful consequences, and the latter is non-consensual rape. It is both unnatural, and harmful.

So I am a bit confused. If arguments for criminalising gay people are family values, progeny production and unnaturalness, the very first thing we must outlaw is celibacy, not homosexuality.

This is a wonderful piece Krish Ashok. While most of the other
articles elsewhere clearly focused on relationships with a prejudiced
tinge of gender bias, this was a great way forward to address
homosexuality in gender neutral way. It is unfortunately a sad fact
that most of well learned Indians think homosexuality is imported from
the West or as a modern lifestyle disorder and it spoils traditional
family values. I believe your words would convey the readers that
family is based on values such as mutual love and trust and not on
gender based stereotypical roles. More clearly homosexuality is not
against nature but a natural variant which has existed through out the
evolution of animal kingdom. For those who argue, then what the
purpose of evolving as "Homo sapiens sapiens" is, the clear answer is

from:  Kannagi
Posted on: Dec 22, 2013 at 19:54 IST
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