June 30, 2009

Unnatural in India

An unnamed government source from India's Home Ministry under Mr. P. Chidambaram has dismissed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality as against "the order of nature", as "an absurdity in today's world". I have no doubt that it is, and I am in good company: Amartya Sen, Vikram Seth, Shyam Benegal, Shubha Mudgal... A meeting of Mr. Chidambaram, the Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Law Minister Veerappa Moily, was expected to be held soon to discuss the law. It's a step forward from the uncompromising opposition to repeal the law by the erstwhile Home Minister, Shivraj Patil. The LGBT community in India cheered. Within hours of the reported consensus between the Home and the Law Ministries on repealing Section 377, however, Mr. Moily, took two steps back:

. "I have never said it will be repealed--the statement has been misinterpreted. As far as Section 377 of IPC is concerned I have said I have not examined it yet," said Law Minister Veerappa Moily on Monday. "There is no question of one individual minister voicing his view this way or that way," said Moily...

"The Cabinet has a mandate to have a re-look at the provision. But we are not going to rush to any conclusion. We will certainly take into account concerns of all sections, including religious groups like Christian church," Moily had said on Sunday.

What could Mr. Moily possibly expect from the religious groups? [Warning: Sexually explicit material below the fold]

"The Church's stand on the issue has always been clear. For us it is an unnatural act, against the divine law. We will definitely oppose it," said Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum.

Okay, for you and your fellow Catholics [btw, isn't the name Catholic Secular Forum an oxymoron?], homosexuality may be unnatural and against "the divine law". Rest assured, no one is holding a gun to your head to commit sodomy. I don't care much for your fictitious divinity, though. What right do you have to impose your rules on me?

Unnatural, eh? Here are some fun details from Olivia Judson's Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation:

Look at bonobo, a sensual creature also known as the pygmy chimpanzee (which is odd, as it's no smaller than the regular chimpanzee). Bonobos like sex, and female bonobos like sex with each other. One lies on her back, another climbs on top, and they rub their genitalia.

Among Adélie penguins, one of the smaller penguins in Antarctica, the males, like most birds, have no penis. But that doesn't stop a bit of gay jiggery-pokery. In one recorded incident two males bowed to each other as they would to a female, then one lay down on his front, raised his bill and tail as any coquettish girl penguin, and the other copulated with him, ejaculating into his genital track. They then swapped roles.

Or look at dolphins. The bottle-nosed dolphin is catholic in its choice of sex partners. Males are frequently sighted copulating with turtles (they insert their penises into the soft tissues at the back of their victim's shell), with sharks, and even with eels... The Amazon River dolphin or boto, sometimes goes further, penetrating another dolphin's blowhole.

Well, need I to go on? How about macaques, baboons, razorbills, octopuses, fruit flies ... Oh come on, you've got no idea how rich and varied sexual conduct in nature is!

Joining with Mr. Diaz is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, whose spokesperson, Vinod Bansal declared,

"It is against the culture and family system in India. It will result in spread of a number of diseases."

Mr. Bansal, which culture are you referring to? The one depicted in this sculpture from Khajuraho, perhaps? Spread of diseases? Yeah, right, if Section 377 were repealed, there is a grave danger that India will climb further above its top ranking in the incidence of Tuberculosis, accounting already for 21% of all cases worldwide. If those gay truck drivers from Delhi and Kolkata were free to do what they want with each other, won't Chlamydia in pregnant women attending secondary care in India jump from 17% to 25%? Perhaps, Mr. Bansal is afraid that India's rank — 135 out of 191 — on healthy life expectancy will slip further away from that of Guatamala, Maldives, Mongolia, and Bolivia?

Muslim leaders, as to be expected, are also against the repeal. Islam is dead against homosexuality, literally — Iran, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Nigeria (in 12 Northern provinces with Sharia law) impose death penalty for same-sex acts. Fatwa 371/B issued by India's Darul Uloom Deoband says, I quote:

Undoubtedly, sodomy (homosexuality) is haram and forbidden in Islam. Because of this sin, the nation of Hazrat Lut (Alaihis Salam) was punished by Allah in this world. There is no fixed punishment for perpetrator of this crime, but according to Imam Abu Hanifa such person should be pushed from a mountain to death. But, this punishment will be implemented by a Qazi. In our country there is neither an Islamic government nor an Islamic Qazi [tsk, tsk, how sad] ; therefore he should repent sincerely to Allah and ask for his forgiveness, and should never return to this act. [emphasis mine]

In consonance with this fatwa, Maulana Abdul Khalik Madrasi, deputy vice chancellor of the Darul Uloom Deoband, has asked the government not to repeal Section 377. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a prominent Muslim organization, chimed in, "the repeal of the section would create 'sexual anarchy' in the society". Yup, "sexual anarchy", and not Islamic terrorism or global economic crisis, is the greatest threat facing India today!

What may be expected from other conservative sections of the society? A spokesperson for the main opposition party of India, the Bharathiya Janata Party, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, cautioned the government not to change the law in a hurry:

"We are living in India, not in an European country. These issues are very important and sensitive. A thorough discussion is needed on this issue."

Section 377 was written into Indian Law in 1860 by a European country, Victorian England, for crying out loud! Little can be said for homophobia in India before the British and the Muslim rule. Besides, why the country of residence should have any impact on the basic rights of a human being is beyond me. Aren't gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders human beings?

What right does anyone have to interfere with the private, consensual, sexual conduct of others? What concern is it of the religious groups like the Christian Church, the Hindu Matts, or the Muslim Ummah, and why should it be taken into account in repealing a law that they had favored and foisted on the people? That Chandra and Bobby or Ennis and Jack love each other deeply, and wish to share their joys and sorrows for life, does not blow up these religious edifices into smithereens, does it? Not that the government has the backbone to legalize drugs, but suppose it does, will it make any sense to consult the Mafia?

It is neither too late nor is it inconsequential for you to sign this open letter to the Government of India, Members of the Judiciary, and all Citizens to repeal Section 377. Please, sign the letter and make your voice heard above the cacophony from the religious fundamentalists. Thanks.

Update: Gay Ho!

  1. Rationals arguing with religion? What a waste of time…

    I support ‘genderal’ minorities, but my only worry is we have too many minorities already, we are becoming a country full of minorities of some or other type.

  2. Catholic Secular Forum?! Ha ha ha!!

    When all the religions unite to hold us back, we can be sure we're trying to take a big step forward.


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