A Rational Approach Towards Same-Sex Unions
Thu, 2009-09-03 00:15 —
By M. Burhanuddin Qasmi
"What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males, and leave the wives your Lord created for you? Nay, but ye are aggressive folk." (Al-Qur'an 26:165)
Following the footsteps of a few Western countries, the Delhi high court has decriminalized the consensual sex between adults of the same gender on July 2, 2009.
All the major media houses – electronic and print, were agog with flashing headlines the next day- “Homosexuality in India decriminalized” and “India ultimately democratized”. The judgment of the Delhi high court said that committing homosexual acts that is having gay or lesbian sex or having unnatural sex, which in turn means same-sex marital relationship or sex among bi-sexuals and transgenders, is no longer illegal in India.
The high court verdict came blatantly and argued that it is against the fundamental right of liberty and life to punish the adult and consensual practitioner of unnatural sex. The on record judgment thus reads:
“Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individuals' fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things Constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view.”
This judgment in fact, repealed the Article 377 (1860) of the Indian constitution.
Under the section of unnatural offences the article 377 of Indian Criminal Panel Code Cr.PC) reads:
“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
With the high court judgment, the voices of protest had been heard from all corners of the Indian mainstream society including anthropologists, medical scientists, religious and political leaders. A majority of the Indians interprets the judgment as something against nature, Indian tradition, religion and culture. And more interestingly, all major religious leaders – Hindu, Muslim and Christian are united on this front and have decided to fight against the judgment of the high court, but the Supreme Court as of now has declined to put stay orders on HC's verdict.
Certainly, the Delhi high court has flung open a never-ending debate among sections of intellectuals including Indian parliamentarians. The members of ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement’ (LGBT) who have actually filed a PIL seeking legalization of gay sex among consenting adults in 2001, of course, are very happy with the verdict and have marked it as ‘landmark’ and ‘historic’ decision and the day – ‘2nd July 2009’ a day of celebration. Thus, the issue invites our methodical study with genuine and humane rationalism.
Sodomy, modern homosexuality, is consistently considered both legally and morally wrong since the age of pre-recorded history. In the three major religions of the world – Islam, Christianity and Judaism places on the plain of the River Jordan named, Sodom and Gomorrah have been used as metaphors for vice and punishable sexual deviation of human beings.
The religious scriptureso of the glorious Qur’an and holy Bible relate the story of Prophet Lut (as) or Lot’s nation in Surah Al-Hijr: 72-73 and Genesis 19:24-25. The meanings remain somehow similar in both the scriptures ‘for the sins of their inhabitants Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, “were destroyed by the Lord of Heaven". The story has therefore given rise to words in several languages, including the Arabic words Luti or Luwatat which in English is "sodomy", a term used today predominantly in law to describe non-vaginal intercourse, as well as bestiality.
In 1976 the historian Michel Foucault argued that ‘homosexuality as an identity did not exist till the eighteenth century; that people instead spoke of sodomy, which referred to sexual acts’.
Actually sexual life of a person has two major orientations – heterosexual, that is vaginal male-female or natural sex and homosexual. Europeans have later divided the homosexuals or the same-sex relationship into four categories:
1. Gays are called those men who have their sexual desire only with other men.
2. Lesbians are such women who fulfill their sexual needs only with other women.
3. Bisexual are those who are found to have sexual desire with both men and women.
4. Transgender are those who have resemblance to both men and women and can play either role during sexual meetings.
Beginning Of The LGBT Right Movements
Human culture and morality has been gradually influenced by so-called Western personal freedom jeopardizing human etiquette and man’s distinction from animals. Though a little number of people throughout history have been engaged in unnatural and immoral acts of homosexual behaviour either because they do not find women or they are found of transgression against established law or because they find a greater pleasure in it.
But it is a historical fact that before the 18th century, homosexuality was considered a dangerous crime and all countries in the world had punishment for it and even in England the punishment for this crime was the death sentence. In 1785 some people from England raised voices to reduce the punishment but a majority of people were against it and so it could not be done. It was a dark day in the history of mankind when in 1791 the French government announced that homosexuality was not a crime and there would not be any punishment for this act.
Various scholarly articles and books record that since the Stonewall riots of 1969 in the USA, widely considered the start of the LGBT rights movement, there has been increased visibility, recognition and legal rights for lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people, including the rights to marriage and civil unions.
Rational Or Irrational Decision
A British scholar writes, ‘Homosexuality – whether lesbian or gay – has been, and still is, regarded as inherently obscene. In 1936 Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness was declared obscene because it dealt with lesbianism. Nearly 50 years later, in 1984, the London bookshop Gay’s the Word was prosecuted and 800 items seized on the same grounds’.
‘This is in fact ruination of Indian culture. Homosexuality is an unnatural act and it is dangerous to moral values. It plays a key role in making the society liable to fall. Thus such verdict can never be accepted and the government must not hasten to amend the section 377 of IPC’ has been the reaction of a prominent Indian scholar, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Al-Qasmi, the president of Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) and MP of the Lok Sabha form Dhubri constituency of Assam, following the controversial verdict of the Delhi HC.
Hearing the petition filed by NAZ Foundation, a bench comprising Chief Justice Ajeet Prakash Shah and S. Murlidhar argued that the section 377 of the IPC goes against the 21st article of the same section, which gives every citizen equal right to live “his own life”. Therefore, it must be amended. Amending the 21st article, would provide the citizens with opportunity to live lustful and profligate lives and we must not overlook the fear which indicates ruination of the already devastated society. The verdict has destroyed many principles such as security to the religious tenets, health code and the moral values only to save one article. Thus here harm is more than benefit, so the argument is not wise.
Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani, a Hyderabad based theological jurist expressed his anguish against the HC verdict in a long article carried by a national Urdu newspapers on July 31, 2009. He argues ‘living one's “own life” does not mean at all, that brushing aside with all the religious and moral values, man should cross all the limits of lust and inhuman wishes and the government should provide him with the constitutional security’. Consensual sex between adults of the same gender is an unnatural act which is neither allowed in any religion, nor accepted by any noble man, he further wrote.
When this writer talked to a teenage medical student in Guwahati, Assam, he responded with sharp counter questions. He asked, “If the judges, who have issued the verdict find their own sons or daughters in such ‘shameful’ act, will they bear it? If not, then why did they allow such unnatural act that will surely ruin the whole society and the Indian culture?”
For many the verdict of the Delhi HC was uncalled for and they demand that the higher judiciary should revise it soon and the government should not amend the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Homosexuality and gayness are against both nature and logic. It is a moral lapse that kills the soul of civilized society. It is an unnatural aberration, which destroys and debases a human being. Those who granted it a legal status and considered it as a personal choice of a citizen cannot stand on their own logic. For instance men’s personal choice has no limits, even speaking exclusively about one’s sex life.
There are thousands of reported and unreported sexual incidents between most respected and very close family members who are adult, sound and did it with mutual consent like sex between father and daughter, mother and sons and brother and sister. Those who did it or eager to do are of course human, by the general definition, they love to name their act as personal choice or ‘individual freedom’ and more so it can be termed as one’s family affair. Are we the rest of the society – governments and human right champions about to legalize their acts too? If not, then of course every freedom, every personal choice has a limitation and precisely the limitation in this case is wholly based on social, cultural and religious grounds.
Adultery, fornication, say pre-marital and extra marital sexual relations or sodomy, gayism and lesbianism were considered ‘sin’ or illegal earlier by all the civilized socialites with same degree as they consider sexual relation between father and daughter or mother and son today. The sexual understanding in the former cases is now changed – they are no more so ‘heinous’ in most of the ‘developed’ western countries, thanks to aggressive campaign by the players involved in the acts– consensual sex between father-daughter or mother-son is still somehow intact in mainstream societies of the world.
My point here is that in a democracy, no doubt, public opinion and consensus of individuals do matter. So if some day a few people come out openly and demand to legalize what they are doing today in hiding, with the criminal tendency in hearts, as sexual relations within close family members and put ‘logical’ arguments with reference to economy and durability of the relationship and cite scientific and medical reasons in support of the act as it is not physically harmful or beneficial; would we amend the present laws, social structure and family system? If yes, what will be the last choice of a person in his sexual behavior and where will he finally rest his lustful freedom express with more moral degradation in the future of the human race. And if no, then better that the government and the society tries to limit it today rather than waiting for a morally worsening tomorrow.
Furthermore, sexual life between two individual is not just to fulfill one’s lust or physical need but it is mainly for procreation of human races and this purpose is defeated if the anal canal is used for sexual purposes. It is contrary to the Creator’s design of male and female – Adam and Hawa (Eve) which is a natural fit. Homosexuals – gay or lesbian, cannot naturally give birth to children. The almighty Lord clearly sees homosexual activity as symptomatic of living by one’s desire rather than the Creator’s design, it is clear transgression of the law of nature and it’s rampage, uninterrupted practices will invite irreparable ecological, biological and health damages to the entire human folks.
Major Religions On Homosexuality
A rightist Hindu Ramesh Shinde writes ‘In Hindu Dharma, being a eunuch and having homosexual relations are two different matters. In Mahabharata, ‘Shikhandi’ has been known as a eunuch warrior; but Dharma does not recognize homosexual relations and considers it as abnormality. The verses 62 and 63 in Chapter 2 of the Bhagwad Geeta explain about how an excess of sex can destroy man. In ‘Narada-Smruti’, marriage of homosexuals is considered to be taboo’.
S K Gupta, spokesman of Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the July 2 judgment of Delhi high court decriminalizing homosexuality. The petitioner prayed to the apex court to set aside the judgment as such sexual acts will have corrupting effect on the culture and ethos of Indian society. The famous Yoga prince Baba Ramdev appears to consider homosexuality a mental disease and he suggests it is curable through Yoga.
Traditional- say original Judaism explicitly condemns and prohibits homosexuality. It has prescribed one of the sever punishments for those who commit homosexual acts. In an article for Aout.com Lisa Katz argues: ‘The various movements within Judaism differ in their view of homosexuality. Traditional Judaism considers homosexual acts as a violation of Jewish law (halakha)’.
According to the Bible, homosexual acts are "to'evah," an abomination.
In Leviticus 18:22, it is written: "And you shall not cohabit with a male as one cohabits with a woman; it is an abomination."
And in Leviticus 20:13, it is found: "And if a man cohabits with a male as with a woman, both of them have done an abominable thing; they shall be put to death; their blood falls back upon them."
New York's Jewish Week described Dennis Prager as "one of the three most interesting minds in American Jewish Life" details in his article ‘Judaism's Sexual Revolution: Why Judaism Rejected Homosexuality’ and argues ‘when Judaism demanded that all sexual activity be channeled into marriage, it changed the world. The Torah's prohibition of non-marital sex quite simply made the creation of Western civilization possible’.
Dennis Prager further writes: The revolutionary nature of Judaism's prohibiting all forms of non-marital sex was nowhere more radical, more challenging to the prevailing assumptions of mankind, than with regard to homosexuality.
A hand some amount of references can be cited from biblical texts (New Testament) and from the scholarly writings of Christian clergies which clearly condemns sodomy (homosexuality) from as early as 250 CE. The writings of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Aristides, Cyprian, Eusebius, St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine of Hippo, and in doctrinal sources and canon law such as the Apostolic Constitutions – for example, Eusebius of Caesarea's statement which condemns "the union of women with women and men with men.”
"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
A report published by The Times of India, July 2, 2008, gives the news “Women priests are fine, but gay bishops are not allowed. This is the attitude of Anglican Church in India which is supporting the traditionalists.” Bishop Gavit, the former church of North India bishop of the city said, “We in India and also other countries of South Asia have been opposed to the issue of gays in church like other countries of Asia and Africa,” he said.
There is also a report in Hindustan Times, the same day (July 2, 2008), which reads that homosexuals are not mentally sound people. The report follows; “Protestant church leaders in Mumbai have likened homosexuals to people not of sound mind” as the Anglican Church inched towards a schism between liberals and conservatives. Both the church of North India (CNI) and the Church of South India (CSI) are supporting a conservative breakaway faction of Anglican Church, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, on the battle over allowing gay clergy into the church.
“We are not comfortable with the idea of a gay priest,” said Reverend Prakash Patole, Bishop of Mumbai, CNI.”
“CNI and CSI have accepted women priests but we haven’t got to stage of welcoming homosexuals,” said Reverend K.I. Dyvasirvadam of St Stephen’s Church, Bandra.
Similar views were echoed by many Christian priests and religious scholars. “The Bible does not recognize gay marriages or gay priests,” said Reverend Benny Thomas of CSI, Mumbai.
‘God clearly sees homosexual activity as symptomatic of living by one’s desire rather than the Creator’s design.’ (Romans 1:25–27).
Islam being the most modern and of course the latest among all major religions in the world speaks unequivocally on the illegality of homosexuality. There are references in the Qur'an which directly or indirectly refer to gay and lesbian behavior. Some obviously deal with effeminate men and "masculine women." However the two main references to homosexual behavior are:
"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." (Al-Qur'an 7:80-81)
"What! Of all creatures do ye come unto the males, and leave the wives your Lord created for you? Nay, but ye are aggressive folk." (Al-Qur'an 26:165)
Prophet of Islam Lut (as) is referred to as "Lot" in the Hebrew Scriptures. This passage is an apparent reference to the activities at Sodom and Gamorrah. It seems to imply that there was no homosexual behavior before it first appeared in Sodom. The passage also links the sin of Sodomites (the reason for Sodom’s destruction) to homosexuality.
Many Ahadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad (saws)) discuss luwatat (sexual intercourse between males):
"When a man mounts another man, the throne of Allah shakes," means the act is a heinous crime and severely punishable by the law of almighty Lord.
"May Allah curse him who does what the Lut's people did." (Ibn Hibban)
There is at least one mention of lesbian behavior in the Hadith: "Sihaq (lesbian sexual activity) of women is zina (illegitimate sexual intercourse) among them." (Tabrani)
There is a consensus among all Islamic scholars that all humans are naturally heterosexual. Homosexuality is seen by scholars to be a sinful and perverted deviation from the law of nature. All Islamic schools of thought and jurisprudence consider gay acts to be unlawful. They differ in terms of penalty but every school has prescribed punishment for the unlawful act.
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi of the USA based ISNA said: "Homosexuality is a moral disorder. It is a moral disease, a sin and corruption... No person is born homosexual, just like no one is born a thief, a liar or murderer. People acquire these evil habits due to a lack of proper guidance and education."
"There are many reasons why it is forbidden in Islam. Homosexuality is dangerous for the health of the individuals and for the society. It is a main cause of one of the most harmful and fatal diseases. It is disgraceful for both men and women. It degrades a person. Islam teaches that men should be men and women should be women. Homosexuality deprives a man of his manhood and a woman of her womanhood. It is the most un-natural way of life. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of family life."
Medical Science On Homosexuality
The World Health Organization's (WHO) ICD-9 (1977) listed homosexuality as a mental illness; it was removed later from the ICD-10, endorsed by the Forty-third World Health Assembly on May 17, 1990.
‘A sharp rise in HIV infections could be looming among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Asia unless they are given better access to health services…’ say health experts.
In the recent past a meeting jointly held by WHO, UN Development Programme, and UNAIDS in Hong Kong to find ways to deal with HIV/AIDS problem in the region. The primary conclusion of the meeting was that there is a “paucity of information and several knowledge gaps” due to lack of surveillance but the research that has been done indicates “widespread HIV transmission throughout the region where MSM (men have sex with men) and TG (trans gender sex) appear increasingly and disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic”.
Dealing with the ongoing debate in India following July 2, 2009 verdict of the Delhi HC a senior sex therapist in Mumbai and MD Dr. Rajan B Bhonsle who is also an Hon. professor and head of the department of sexual medicine at Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai mastered an article ‘Gay rights is ok, but what about health risks?; carried by DNA newspaper on July 14, 2009. Dr. Bhonsle’s argument, to me, is striking and factual, hence sharing the abstract of his article will bring home the medical aspects of homosexuality. He writes:
‘Being a medical practitioner in the field of sexual medicine for over two decades, I have seen severe medical complications arising out of "consensual sodomy" or "anal sex", whether between two homosexuals, or even when it has been compelled on a woman by a man.
The physical and emotional trauma of these victims stirs my heart and cannot go unmentioned in the midst of all this debate of "de-criminalizing consensual sexual behavior in privacy between two same-sex individuals".
Kiran was a 20-year-old frail boy from a poor family. He got a job of a peon in a private office after a lot of struggle. His boss, a 46-year-old rich married man, fancied anal sex. He pressurized Kiran to have anal sex with him after office hours in his cabin. Kiran felt helpless as this job was vital for him. He consented to the demands of his boss.
A few months later, when he approached a doctor, he had developed infected painful fissures at his anus and had partially lost control on the mechanism of the anal opening which was not functioning due to the injuries during anal sex. He had lost his job and had no courage to approach the police as he felt he had neither the moral right nor the legal standing as he was major and had "consented" to this act.
Deepak, a 32-year-old married government employee was a bisexual. He would indulge in anal sex with some of his male office colleagues 'consensually' for mutual pleasure. His wife was completely oblivious to this side of her husband. Deepak also never felt that his secret parallel life would ever affect his marriage.
During the second pregnancy of his wife, the obstetrician detected that she was not only HIV positive, but her tests for Syphilis, Hepatitis-B and Genital Herpes were also found positive. Deepak too was tested positive for these four STDs. It was obvious that Deepak had contracted all these STDs from his multiple homosexual contacts and now his wife and unborn child were also victims of these life threatening infections.
In all the cases, the involved individuals were 'adults' and were engaging into anal sex with 'mutual consent' in 'privacy'. Doctors get to see several such cases. I wish all those who are critical of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (1860) need to give serious consideration to their demands. The legal experts, social activists, gay organisations and the media cannot afford to be ignorant about possibilities such as these.
As a medical expert, I would like to talk about some medical facts related to anal sex. Medical science regards anal sex as "high-risk behavior".
Physiologically, the anus is not designed for penetration by any hard object. The anal sphincter tightens ordinarily if stimulated, as a protective reflex action, and any attempt at penile insertion may be distressing even if done slowly and gradually. If the penis is forced into the anus, injury is possible. The lining (mucus membrane) of the rectum is very thin, tears easily, does not heal fast and therefore is vulnerable to infections.
Also, the tears can enlarge to a fissure or a crack leading to the outside of your body. There is also a possibility that a fistula could open up, allowing faeces to re-route into the abdominal cavity or into the vagina. This can cause serious surgical complications. One may lose control over the anal sphincter causing continuous involuntary leakage of faecal matter.
Some of the micro-organisms that are normally present in the anus of even a healthy individual are known for causing severe urinary infection if they enter the urethra and urinary tract. During anal sex the urethra actually enters the rectum, inviting infective bacteria into the urethra and thus the urinary tract. Repeated urinary infection can cause serious problems such as renal damage and even kidney failure.
Masters & Johnson in their book on 'Sex and Human Loving' warn, that because bacteria are naturally present in the anus, anything that has been inserted into the anus if subsequently put into the vagina, can cause severe vaginal infections. Therefore moving from anal intercourse to vaginal intercourse is extremely hazardous.
The rate of transmission of HIV (and other STDs) through anal sex is much higher compared to other penetrative sexual acts. It will be enlightening to know that the condom, which is thought to be a means of "so-called safe sex", is not designed for anal sex by the manufacturers. Anal sex involves a totally different kind of pressure dynamics, and the latex or polyurethane condoms are not manufactured keeping these pressure dynamics in mind. The condom is far more likely to get torn during anal sex (thus paving the way for the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STDs). Therefore I reiterate that anal sex even with the use of a condom is definitely a "high risk behavior".
Finally, I would like to conclude by saying that as a society, we need to learn to accept all "persons" with equal human rights irrespective of their choices, but we do reserve the right to reject certain "behaviors" that are injurious to the health of those persons or others connected to them...’
Here the final call is STOP. We need to stop here and now. Freedom of individual choices has no limit at all. A society would face complete social, moral and collective collapse if all individual members of the society are given just a free hand to go with their own life anyway they like.
For example the youthful owner of the BMW car loves to drive by 250 km per hour speed on Mumbai-Pune express highway whereas a trucker enjoys going by 20 km speed on the fast-track of the same express road. Why are the both wrong, and the traffic police hunt and fine such offenders on road at the spot! Another adult sane, for instance, loves to go complete nude in public as his or her show of personal ‘freedom’, thanks to universal sense of humanity that till date no country in the world though legalized it. In the former case the reason being for such driving unlawful or punishable crime is either the driver will harm himself or the others on the road not following the prescribed rules for driving on that highway. And in the later it is nothing but morality, saneness of human being and social structure of human life that does not allow another human to remain completely nude all the time and to freely roam around in market places, offices and even at home before others.
Spirituality or morality is naturally manifested to every human being, it changes the degree later with social or behavioral changes of a child. Without moral or spiritual force from within, even an atheist or a nonbeliever in any religion will reduce his ‘own life’ a hell in a very short span of life. Legalizing homosexuality or say extra martial heterosexuality is logically inhuman. No sane society should allow or appreciate it.
The author M. Burhanuddin Qasmi is the editor of Eastern Crescent magazine, a Darul Uloom Deoband alumnus and the director of Mumbai based Markazul Ma’arif Education & Research Centre.
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