, by N. JAMAL ANSARI
Sexual topics of any kind are avoided in public conversation in India and any talk concerning homosexuality is altogether not possible freely. Today ideas are changing, works on the subject that were not taken up in the past, such as marital adjustments and birth control, are now discussed freely. However homosexuality is seldom discussed or written about. Striking down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code by Delhi High Court in its judgement of July 2, 2009 has opened up the channels of discussion on the subject. However academic discussion should be beyond myths and prejudice. I am neither a homosexual nor a social scientist, psychologist or a psychiatrist. My only qualification for writing on the subject is that I am a human being and deeply concerned with the fallout of the judgement delivered by learned judges of Delhi High Court in their wisdom.
Homosexuality is as old as the human race. It can be traced in advanced civilizations as well as in primitive cultures. The Hindus have a well documented tradition of homosexuality. Ancient Hindu treatise on love-making, Kamasutra written by Sage Vatsyayana between 400-500 C.E. carries a full chapter “Auparishtaka” on homosexual intercourse. Kautilya has recorded existence of “Strirajya” (kingdom of women) in some parts of India in the 4th century B.C. Kalidasa also refers about such a kingdom, again in the 4th century. In Mahabharat, we find two references of all female kingdoms ruled by the female monarchs, Alli and Pavazha Kodi. Herodotus in the 5th century B.C. tells us about the island of Lesbos which is off the coast of Greece. It was in this island that the Greek poetess Sappho became leader of women who indulged in homosexual practices. The word “Lesbianism” has been derived from there.
But the conception of homosexuality as a condition with a distinct, separate, specialised role of ‘homosexual’ emerged in England at the end of the 7th century only and is now spreading in society.
The history of our own Indian civilization indicates that the repressive attitudes have failed to eradicate homosexuality. Leaving aside homosexuality in the Hindu epics and temple carvings, there are many references to homosexual activities in India even in recent times. In the 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in the Young India:
“Some years ago the Bihar government in its Education Department had an enquiry into the question ‘Unnatural vice’ in its schools. The Committee of Enquiry had found the existence of the vice even among teachers, who were abusing their position among their boys, in order to satisfy their unnatural lust. I have had literature too, sent me from other provinces, inviting my attention to such vice and showing that it was on the increase practically all over India. Personal letters received from boys have confirmed the information. The remedy for all secret vice is most difficult to find when it affects guardians of boys which the teachers are. If the salt loses its savour, wherewith shall it be salted.”
The Minister of Education replied to a question in the Punjab Legislative Council in 1934:
“The number of cases of seduction amongst the secondary department of the schools in the province during the last five years was 31. Ten of the offenders were dismissed from the services, two were awarded rigorous imprisonment by the Court of Law, eight cases were under consideration of the authorities, while in ten cases the charges could not be proved.”
PN Maulik, Principal, SD College wrote a letter in The Tribune in 1934. He writes:
“As a teacher and as a member of the management of some schools, I may be permitted to observe with some authority that the vice is quite widespread among students, and in most schools there are some teachers who are corrupters of the young. The proper remedy for this vice is drastic regulations of the Education Department providing for the dismissal or voluntary retirement from service”.
From all these statements and opinions, it is clearly established that homosexuality has been quite rampant in India. In fact, it has been more widespread in some provinces than others. Mr. RBL Kanwar Sain, Barrister-at-Law, Chief Justice, Jammu & Kashmir State wrote in The Tribune of January 21, 1934: “The evil is not sporadic nor is it confined to any particular locality, but is widespread and our province stands next only to N.W.F. Province in the gravity of situation.” Even today, homosexuality in men and women is greater in north and the north-west than in other parts of the country.
Freud viewed homosexuality as caused by constitutional factors and also as a perversion. He had little hope for curing the condition through therapy. He believed, “A perversion meant that the person acted out his sexual drives and therefore was untreatable.” Lionel Ovesey of Columbia Psychoanalytic School believes, “Homosexuality as an adaptation to sexual inhibition or fear of normal heterosexual functioning.” Clara Thompson, Director of William A. White Institute of Psychiatry, New York, says, “Homosexuality is a symptom of various underlying non-sexual problems such as fear of adult-responsibility, a need to defy authority or an attempt to cope with hatred.” Lawrence Hatterer of Cornell University opines, “Homosexuality is a curable disorder.”
In fact psychiatry never deviated from opinion that homosexual behaviour resulted from a pathological sidetrack in the psycho-sexual development of a normal human being. But on 16th December, 1973, the American Psychiatric Association’s 13-member Board of Trustees voted unanimously to remove homosexuality from the category of mental illness. The trustees clearly stated, “The diagnostic category is distinguished from homosexuality which in itself does not necessarily constitute psychiatric disorder.” The generally accepted theory of the nature of homosexuality which began with Freud came full circle with the decision of American Psychiatric Association’s opinion on the subject.
RELIGION AND HOMOSEXUALITY
Although Hindu temples, legends, arts and literature are full of homosexuality and although archaeologists have found pre-historic cave drawings, showing female figures engaged in cunnilingus, Hinduism as a religion is silent about the practice of homosexuality. However, Manu, the author of an important treatise on law, the Manu Smriti (Manova Dharma Shastra) discusses at length punishment to homosexuals. Manu dictates severe penalties to sodomists. With lesbians he is even more harsh. He declares that “a damsel who pollutes another should be fined 200 panas and to be given ten strokes with the rod”.
As for the Judeo-Christian religion, early church regarded homosexual practices with unqualified disapproval. Ethical pronouncements against the homosexuals have been largely from accepted interpretation of Genesis 19: 4-11 in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. St. Augustine in the “Confessions” (iii, viii, 15) states: “Those shameful acts against nature such as were committed in Sodom ought everywhere and always to be detested and punished. Not only because they are contrary to nature but also basically because they are contrary to the purpose of sexuality which is procreation.” Both in the Old and New Testaments, the homosexuals are condemned.
As far as Islam is concerned, all available sources prohibit it. The Holy Qur'an condemns it without an iota of doubt. The Qur'an says: “Do you approach the males of humanity, leaving the wives that Allah has created for you? But you are a people who transgress” (Holy Quran, 26: 165-66).
The other main reference is:
“We also sent Lut. He said to his people: Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds” (Holy Quran, 7: 80-81).
If we go to Hadiths, many of them have discussed “Liwat” (sexual intercourse between males).
Abu Sa’id al-Khudri narrated: The Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) said: A man should not look at the private parts of another man and a woman should not look at the private parts of another woman. A man should not lie with another man without wearing lower garments under one cover and a woman should not lie with another woman without wearing lower garments under one cover.” (Abu Dawood).
In another Hadith Abū Hurairah narrates: The Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) said: “A man should not lie with another man and a woman should not lie with another woman without covering their private parts except a child or a father” (Abu Dawood).
It is clear beyond any doubt that Islam forbids homosexuality in strongest terms. A Muslim is one who submits himself to the will of Allah. Hence from our point of view, homosexuality cannot be rationalised in any way.
Today a lot of discussion is taking place on the issue. There are people who are trying to justify their behaviour in the name of tolerance. The agenda of homosexuals is to make their behaviour acceptable as normal and in the process attract more people to their ranks. They are promoting their agenda through legislation, presenting themselves as discriminated and getting it legalised.
Homosexuality has been condemned in every religion. Some of them like Hinduism have no rigid and codified rules for it. But we Muslims need to declare unequivocally and unambiguously that homosexuality is a deviant behaviour and that there is not even an iota of doubt that Islam condemns this negative behaviour.
Allah the Creator has created every being and everything in pairs, each endowed with physical and psychological characteristics to complete the other. The Holy Qur'an (4:1) indicates that human beings have been created from one living entity (nafs) which represented the origin of both the male and female since its existence. The mating of male and female sexes is original in human nature and out of this instinctive relationship the human race continues and spreads.
The law should maintain its censure and punishment of those who indulge in homosexuality. There is no justification in sending message to citizens that the act of homosexuality is not forbidden. Society in turn has the two fold-task to perform. The urgent and primary task of society is to oppose any attempt of legalising homosexuality. Secondly, the young generation should be told that tolerance does not mean to accept evil deeds. The aim must be to make everyone aware about breaking laws of nature and the dangers ahead. We have to arrive at the concept of morality and ethics to develop a saner and healthy society and also a more enlightened sexual morality.