Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India and Former Supreme Court Judge on Friday (26 December, 2014) condemned gay marriage and rights in a Facebook post titled ‘Gay Relationships and Gay Marriages’. He cited Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Man and Superman’ and used his idea around “Force of Life” to hail reproductive heterosexuality as “natural” and dismiss homosexuality as “all humbug and nonsense”. However regressive the former judge’s views might sound to us, they hint at a deeper social malaise pertaining to how we bring up our children.
We do not teach children about gender and sexuality at school. Instead, we teach them moral science and the great Indian art of hypocrisy. We tell them that the end-all and be-all of education is to make doctors and engineers and other professionals out of them. We tell them success is determined by the position you occupy in the social ladder and the salary you earn. As a result, we have people like Markandey Katju who can make the most irrational, insensitive and irresponsible statement concerning gay marriage and women’s rights.
According to Mr. Katju, homosexuality is a “modern” phenomenon and must be ‘cured’ to give way to reproductive heterosexuality. In his opinion, at the heart of heterosexual bonding, companionship, love, lies procreative sex and the desire to keep the human race going. Therefore, he questions, “Will a gay relationship or marriage serve nature’s requirement of continuing the species?” The former judge also believes that the role of the woman in a heterosexual union is that of being a mother-homekeeper and the role of the man is that of the protector-giver.
Such essentialised views not only reflect on the utterly heterosexist mindset of a man holding such a powerful position as him, but also discredits what feminists have critiqued for so long. Nivedita Menon, in her book ‘Seeing Like A Feminist’, has beautifully pointed out that motherhood is as “natural” to a woman as it is to a man and that lactation can be induced in a man too! Queer theory has questioned binaries of gay-straight and pointed towards a sexual continuum. Though I hate telling people that homosexuality (or heterosexuality, for that matter) is “natural” and “not a disease”, the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 and the World Health Organization in 1992 did accept homosexuality as a ”normal” variant of human sexuality. That apart, if one reads the history of sexual practices acros the world, one realises that same-sex sexual practices have been there since times immemorial and that sexual identity-based categories are only an early 20th century invention of American-European psychologists and sexologists.
In the present context of India, where an utterly regressive, Victorian law like Section 377 vitiates the atmosphere for equal rights, thereby enabling people like Mr. Katju to spew hatred and prejudice against people who do not stick to the “norm”, one can only ask (as Nivedita Menon does): Is it natural to be normal? If yes, why would we need laws to maintain something natural? In other words, if heterosexuality was normal, why would we need Section 377 to curtail same-sex intimacy? It’s time we introduce gender and sexuality education in schools. Changed mindset is the need of the hour!