Homosexuality: Natural law, Indian culture, and other ill-considered arguments

A priest asserts that attraction for the same sex subverts natural law and is, hence, immoral. A politician claims that homosexuality is not in tune with a country’s culture – in this case, Indian culture. But are Nature and Culture so easily defined or understood?

Nature is hardly an open book – we are still to plumb even the extent of her mystery, much less attempt to unravel the secrets. And human nature, a mere chapter in the Book of Nature, is one of the abiding mysteries. Physiology, arguably more than any other branch of knowledge, is perpetually deepening and widening its domain, besides also reversing many of its findings as in the case of cancer research in recent times. Under the circumstances, it may not be long before gender, we are told, is no longer just an anatomical distinction; the mind may have to be examined and factored in before a decision regarding gender can be made. Stereotypical understanding of ‘male’ and ‘female’ will then no longer hold. How will the natural law then be interpreted?

As for culture – it is another complex phenomenon. It cannot be straitjacketed in a timeframe or a mindset. It is constantly evolving and yet is anchored in history – there is continuity and change, as well as constancy. It belongs to a community, a nation, a people, and may yet be an extremely personal practice – for culture is both homogeneous and diverse. A culture could live on though all around it is destroyed, and go extinct even in the midst of development. An individual, at any point in history, can become so identified with a culture that they become synonymous with it – indeed become a metonym for it, but no individual, at any point of time, can claim to be the sole voice of a culture, least of all Indian culture which, like a palimpsest, has been layered over and over again through time though the earlier cultures have never been erased.

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