Dear Custodians Of Indian ‘Culture’, Here’s A Blast Of Homosexuality From The Past!

By Adya Vac:

It was indeed a happy day when it was ruled that there is nothing wrong with gay sex. There were millions of people happy not only in India but globally. All of these people were not gay or lesbian, there were scores of straight people as well. The ruling gave a very clear message that the Indian government was, for a change, ready to move ahead and not blindly follow culture, or what we perceive culture to be.

Homosexuality in India

Now after the ruling today, there are two points I would like to put forward which reveal the sheer hypocrisy of this ruling. The first one being the difference in ‘culture’, and our perception of culture. They seem like the same thing don’t they? But they aren’t.

What is the root of culture? Where do our notions of culture spring from? Almost every one of you would agree that it is the sacred texts of The Vedas, The Puranas, The Ramayan and The Mahabharat, among others. And therein lies the problem, all of us say so and so is not part of our culture, but how many of us have actually read even one of these texts? Or if not read them, then read ‘about’ them? The number of people who have is pitiable. So, when we haven’t read the source of our culture how do we know it?

You would say we know it because culture has been passed down from generation to generation. Now let me ask you a question. Are you so naïve as to believe that our culture has remained unchanged since about 4000 years? Let me give you a few examples.

All of us Hindus, whether we are against the LGBT community or not, we have idols of gods in our homes and we also go to temples. Did you know that idol worshiping is prohibited in the Vedas?

A lot of us think that the concept of feminism is a western concept and that women only ever worked at home. On the contrary, it can be traced back to 300 B.C., where a woman named Apalla is mentioned in this context. No less than 60 women have been identified who spent their lives in pursuit of knowledge and never entered the institution of marriage.

We also think that Indian people were never involved in gay sex. You only need to read the Kama sutra and see the various references to gay sex and look at the temples and their architectures. If we are utilising the same architecture to make inferences about our culture with regard to other aspects, then why not when it comes to sexuality?

Love marriage, a western concept right? Because Indians always had the notion of arranged marriages with the occasional svayamvara? Wrong again. Manusmriti itself mentions eight kinds of marriages, one of them is the Gandharva Marriage, wherein a man and a woman can marry by themselves with no requirement of consent of parents or even any kind of rites. The king Dushyant and Shakuntala married in this very manner. Arranged marriage only gained preference when India was under attack and influence of foreign cultures and unmarried girls were carried away. Also, if a wedding takes place without sacred rites, then the use of Brahmans or priests would be very less, and since they had no other source of income other than social and religious functions, the majority of which were marriages, they made attempts to make the Gandharva form of marriage seem impure.

The shiv-ling, a much revered symbol in Hindu Mythology and religion, is assumed by many people to be just a phallic symbol. What they don’t know is that the phallic symbol stands on a construction of the Yoni. The whole of it is in fact an image of Shiv-Shakti coming together, physically and spiritually, because when matter and energy come together, life is created. A fact resonated by Physics as well. None of them is complete without the other.

Abortion is considered a heinous crime according to the Vedas. And yet, many Hindu families get abortions today in case of unplanned pregnancies even when there are no health risks to the mother or child . Not to mention female foeticide.

These were some very common examples which prove that most of us have just about no clue about our culture. It’s also very important to know that our culture was deeply influenced by the colonisation, and in a negative manner. Macaulay once said, “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.”

These examples point to the hypocrisy of us saying gay rights are not part of our culture and then doing so many things which are also not part of our culture.

The second important question is, “Do we really want to be forever stuck in the past?”. Indians, and people all over the world have changed in an indefinite number of ways since thousands of years. With the help of science, we have let go of so many superstitions and have welcomed technology into our lives. For all those religious communities who, unlike the Hindu way of life, did condemn gay sex, they too have accepted many reforms in their lives. They too flout many rules. The Bible also restricts interbreeding of livestock and wearing garments of more than one fibre, or mixed with wool and linen. Is this rule followed? Then why this aversion to change when it is about sexuality? As I was watching Times Now today, one person very aptly said in response to the comment “gay sex is unnatural”, “if gay sex is unnatural then so is artificial insemination and surrogacy”. How do you feel about that?

Many people also say that gay sex is wrong because it does not lead to procreation. Well let me ask you another question, is procreation the sole purpose of sex? This would also mean that sex between two people, one or both being infertile, is also wrong. It would also mean that we should not indulge in anything unnatural, and since we can’t have kids by normal methods why do we then resort to the methods mentioned above? Did you know that homosexuality has been seen in over five hundred animal species? How is it then unnatural? We have come from animals, and only much later did we start being afflicted with the disease of homophobia.

Kama, or desire, is mentioned as one of the four most important pillars of life. Then why do we shy away from it?

We further say that being gay is a choice that people make. Then it is also true that being straight is a choice as well. Do you remember choosing to be straight?

Many people also argue that it is important for a child to have a male and female parent to grow up ‘normally’ as the world is made up of men and women both. Then why do so many of us want to bring up our children in same sex schools, out of touch with half the population? Further, are children resulting from opp-sex marriages always normal? Don’t they turn out to be psychopaths and criminals?

Lastly, the LGBT community is yet a minority and people say that minorities cannot have rights. Um excuse me, what about reservations for minorities? A democracy is not a democracy unless it takes care of the rights of the minorities and not just the majority.

Sexuality is not a trivial thing. It defines a person on many levels. Sexual rights are human rights. In the same way that we fight against child marriages, against rape, against the selling of daughters, against polygamy, against slavery, all for their right to live the way they want, we have to fight for the rights of the LGBT community.

If a Muslim wedding, or a Christian church, or a Buddhist temple, or Hindu festivals, or Zoroastrian synagogues do not infringe on the rights of each other, then how can the existence of the LGBT community pose a danger to the rights of the straight community?

Originally published on my blog

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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