The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government and an NGO on a petition challenging the Delhi High Court's ruling legalising gay sex among consenting adults. The High Court had on July 2 struck down a law, which criminalises gay sex terming it an “unnatural offence”. Of all major political groupings, only the Communist Party of India-Marxist has welcomed the court order.
Religious leaders of all faiths have also united against legalising homosexuality. On Thursday, a Hindu Shankaracharya, a Jamaat-e-Islami cleric, Delhi's Catholic Bishop and a Jain muni held a press conference where they described gay sex as immoral, unnatural, and alien to Indian society, culture, tradition and religious ethos.
The question that was asked on CNN-IBN’s Face The Nation was: Does religion forbid homosexuality?
To try and answer the question on the panel of experts were: Sabarimala Temple spokesperson Rahul Easwar; Managing Partner, Counselage Suhel Seth; Jamaat-e-Islami Hind President Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri and cultural commentator and journalist S Kalidas.
At the start of the show, 53 per cent of those who voted in said yes, religion does forbid homosexuality while 47 per cent disagreed.
Sexual rights = Human rights
The Delhi HC in its order had said that the amendment is in consonance with Article 14, 21 and according to the freedom available in Constitution of India. So people might have different religious point of views but at the end of the day it is the Constitution which matters in a country.
Taking this point forward Easwar said that 100 years ago it was good to talk about religion and ethics and bad to talk about sex but today it is good to talk about sex. India has come a long way.
He emphasised that sexuality has nothing to do with religion and therefore it shouldn’t be taken up as a religious matter and also said that whether homosexuality is inborn and natural is yet to be confirmed by the science.
Kalidas also said that Delhi HC order in no way talked about religion because as a secular society we are not guided by any religion. He also told that in Hinduism there are stories about same sex relationships and following Hindu’s Bhakti Movement even Sufi tradition has instances of same sex relationships.
Contradicting Kalidas’s comment Maulana Syed said that it is not true and even if gay sex is decriminalised in India Islam will never agree to it.
Kalidas interfered and said that the problem is in the attitude. People not only have problem with homosexuality but with sex itself.
Are religious, political leaders trying to bank in on gay issue?
Giving the issue a political viewpoint Suhel asked that where all the political leaders were when Babri Masjid was demolished, does Hinduism teaches violence?
Agreeing with Kalidas, Suhel said that it is not about religion at all but about hypocrisy. Deferring with Easwar he said that it is not at all about religion versus modernity but about liberty. He went on saying that religion is personal and therefore everyone has a right to practice his or her own religion, a judicial system will not decide it for anyone.
Taking on Suhel, Easwar said that many believe prostitution is the oldest profession in the country so should it be legalised and added that modern people shouldn’t try to project that because they belong to the modern society gays should be acceptable in the country.
Kalidas interfered and mentioned that almost every religion in its sub-continent had homosexual tradition and therefore everyone should read them before opposing Delhi HC’s order.
The right to be gay
Kalidas said that homosexuals have always tried to interact and make themselves comfortable in heterosexual community. It has always been the problem from the other community which finds it difficult to interact and mingle with gays.
Deferring with Kalidas and talking about gay rights Maulana Syed said he is not opposing Delhi HC’s order only for Muslims but also for the entire country because he thinks it is wrong and is not good for the homosexuals.
Maulana emphasised that none of the families will ever give their consensus to a gay couple and therefore it is wrong for the coming generations.
Suhel said that no leader has any right to dominate Indian Constitution and therefore Maulana’s point can’t be taken.
Taking the discussion forward Easwar said that religious minority and sexual minority are not the same and therefore they should not be equated.
Bringing the discussion to an end Kalidas said that he is amused that the obsession of brahmacharis and maulanas with graphic sexuality is Freudian and they seem to have the greatest suspicion of gays.
Final SMS/Web poll: Does religion forbid homosexuality?
Yes: 52 per cent
No: 48 per cent