Shashi Tharoor made an attempt to get a private bill passed in parliament to decriminalize gay sex which is banned under the IPC section 377. Although he couldn’t garner enough support to see the bill through, it once again brought this controversial and sensitive topic up for a debate. We all are aware of the Supreme Court’s famous ruling on 11th December, 2013 upholding the section 377. The Apex court’s ruling got unanimous support from various religious leaders and bodies. Baba Ramdev went on to claim that he can cure such ailments through Yoga.
Let’s understand how homosexual acts have been perceived in the learning of major religions practiced in India
1) Hinduism – Mixed position on Homosexuality
Hinduism has demonstrated mixed positions on the subject ranging from positive to negative. People supporting such acts quote ancient Hindu texts to furnish supporting evidences, ‘Vikrati Evum Prakriti’( Diveristy/un-natural is also natural) from Rigveda. Temples in Khajuraho depict both male and female homosexuality and Kama Sutra mentions ‘third gender’ giving pleasure services to men. In 2009, Hindu Council UK openly endorsed LGBT rights claiming that ‘Hinduism doesn’t condemn homosexuality’.
Counter views on the matter claim that the ‘third-gender’ mentioned in ancient transcripts referred to outcasts and men or women caught engaging in homosexual acts. Offenders were punished according to the quantum of their actions. Here too gay sex was treated less harshly then lesbian acts where punishments were more barbaric.
2) Islam – Declared unnatural and Punishable offense
All Islamic schools condemn homosexual desires and such relations are seen as un-natural temptations. All such acts are considered as sin and punishable based on the verses of Quran. In the modern era, Islamic world disapproves homosexuality socially as well as legally. Largest Islamic institution in India, Darul Uloom Deoband, has also fervently protested against any move to liberalize such laws in India.
3) Christianity – Contradicting views of different sects
Various Christian denominations hold contradicting views on these issues. Some of the Churches condemn homosexual acts as sinful whereas others show complete acceptance. The debate revolves on the extent to which Bible mentions the topic and also the interpretation of such mentions. Liberal Christians have now come out in full support of LGBT rights. But, it is ironic that the petition which lead to the Supreme Court verdict had a few of Indian Christian sects as co-petitioners.
4) Sikhism – Liberal views
Sikh texts have no mention of homosexuality. It has been opposed by a Sikh religious authority (Akal Takht) but many of the Sikhs are against such views. In Sikhism, marriages are believed to be the union of souls which are genderless and thus this fact is referred by the advocates.
5) Buddhism – Refrained from getting involved in sexual misconduct
The faith of Buddhism is based on The Five Precepts and the third one of these five is ‘to refrain from sexual misconduct’. But the term is so broad that it is hard to define whether homosexuality is encompassed within its definition. However, Dalai Lama, the Buddhist guru and supreme spiritual leader, has claimed that homosexuality is a sexual misconduct for the believers of Buddhism on several occasions. On some occasions, Dalai Lama has preached that sexual relations are private affairs and as long as it is consensual there is no reason to oppose.
The voices in support of decriminalizing the act have increased and the number of such marriages is on the rise with many couples openly accepting their preferences. But, one of the major concerns is the inhuman treatment handed out to homosexual people in the name of law, which the Supreme Court and the government need to take a cognizance of.
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