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Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Slippery Slope of Individualism

A five judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court is currently hearing petitions challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. A two judge bench had in December 2013 upheld the constitutionality of Section 377. Though everyone agrees that Section 377 has many defects, the debate about mainstreaming and celebration of what many consider a sexual deviance is now raging.

In July 2016, the present government had abstained from voting on a resolution in the United Nations pertaining to sexual orientation, citing pendency of the dispute before the Supreme Court. A very vocal gay community and a powerful liberal lobby are vehemently arguing for individual freedom, right to live with dignity, right to privacy and the right to ‘full personhood’.

They argue that sexual relations between consenting adults cannot be restricted in any manner as it causes no harm to anyone. Those opposed to same-sex relationships say that it is against public morality. They argue that laws always reflect public morality and that the straight-jacket formula of its okay if its consensual is misconceived. They argue that absolute individual freedom is not available while living in a society and that the morality of a few should not be imposed upon the rest in the name of constitutional morality. Caught between the devil and the deep sea, the central government has left the matter to the ‘wisdom of the court’.

Most of those who oppose the gay movement argue that their concern is not decriminalisation per se, but the consequent mainstreaming of homosexuality and lesbianism. They say that the word homophobia is propagandistic and that they do not want to see gays punished. They say that deviant sexual activities of all kind, between consenting adults in the privacy of four walls, has been going on unhindered since long and that even if the state wishes, it can do little to curb it. It is the ‘coming out’ and celebration of a deviant sexual behaviour that they are opposed to.

They argue that decriminalisation is only the beginning and that demand for legalisation of gay marriages will immediately follow suit. They fear that various other ‘sexual minorities’ as they call themselves, will then come out seeking legitimisation, on the same principles as the gay community. They fear that the society is going down the slippery slope of degenerate behaviour.

Slippery slope of degenerate behaviour

This concern was voiced before the Delhi High Court in the original challenge to Section 377, which was rejected summarily by saying thatThe argument of the learned ASG that public morality of homosexual conduct might open floodgates of delinquent behaviour is not founded upon any substantive material, even from such jurisdictions where sodomy laws have been abolished.

Even in the present hearing, while leaving the question of decriminalisation to the Supreme Court’s decision, the government has expressed concerns about the impact on the prohibition of incestuous relationships. The gay community world over vehemently oppose this argument, knowing well that, if accepted, this can swing public perception against them. They will not concede that their innocuous-sounding campaign for right to love will lead to opening a pandora’s box.

Is incest next?

We shall see whether one can argue a case for legitimisation and legalisation of adult consensual incest, using the same arguments and principles used by the gay community. Incest is taken as an example, the pandora’s box is huge. Undoubtedly, incest today invokes the same outrage and revulsion in our society, as did homosexuality, not long ago. The gay community and the liberals have always resented comparison of same-sex sexual activities with incest, calling them incomparable.

Consensual incest between adults is not prohibited by law in Bharat, presumably since the lawmakers did not perceive the existence of such evil which required a remedy. Marriage within the prohibited degrees of relationship is prohibited under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as well as the Special Marriages Act, 1954. But, consensual incest between adults is a crime in most of the countries including the United States and the United Kingdom, inviting serious punishment. Despite not being a crime, abhorrence towards incest is the same, if not greater, in Bharat.

Let us consider the popular arguments made against equating incest with gay relationships and against suggesting that demands for acceptance of incest (as an example of unacceptable behaviour) can arise following mainstreaming of gay relationships. Let us consider whether a same-sex relationship is on any higher or better legal or moral pedestal compared to incest.

Argument: Being gay is an orientation, due to genetic factors, it is not a choice. Incest is a matter of choice.

Firstly, calling homosexuality an orientation doesn’t mean much. As per the American Psychological Association, orientation is merely one’s perception of oneself, based on one’s attraction – emotional, romantic and/or sexual towards another individual. Though presently orientations are only homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual, it is not difficult to conceive a fourth or fifth orientation.

Until 1973, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. DSM is the bible for psychiatrists and psychologists, not only in America but the world over. We have to understand that mental disorders are not diseases but are behaviours that are considered undesirable and notnormal as per the opinion of a few, which change over time. There are no absolute determinative tests, but only opinions based on a checklist of behaviour patterns, contained in DSM or its equivalent (read).

Accordingly, a mental illness treated for ages was overnight declassified as a normal behaviour on 5th December, 1973, when the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association passed a resolution to that effect. The decision of the Association was criticised on various grounds including for not being based on scientific reasoning but admittedly due to “changing social norms and growing gay-rights activism (Read Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis; by Dr. Roland Bayer). In 2004 gay marriages were legalised in the first state in the United States and in July 2015, with a 5 against 4 majority, the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriages throughout the country. When we see how homosexuality has travelled from being a mental illness to being normal, it won’t be a difficult task for incest.

Now moving to the argument that being gay is an immutable characteristic due to its alleged biological or genetic causation. In October 2015 a team from University of California, Los Angeles announced that they have found that there is no evidence of any gay genes but that post-birth environmental factors may be the cause. No researcher has yet claimed to have found any conclusive evidence of immutable genetic or biological cause for being gay.

The American Psychological Association says thatThere is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.

Moreover, assuming that genes are responsible for homosexuality, does that alone make homosexuality any more acceptable than incestuous behaviour? Researchers have found a genetic cause for violent crimes. Researchers have also found that some men are born pedophiles. There are numerous rights organisations in the West actively promoting sex between adults and children (list). Does it mean the criminals and pedophiles are helpless and should they be permitted to carry on? (read) On the other hand, there are theories like Genetic Sexual Attraction (GSA) and Oedipus complex which make it seem that incestuous attraction happens due to reasons beyond our control.

Now to put things into perceptive, given the dubious declassification from being a mental disorder to a normal behaviour and the lack of consensus on any biological connection, consensual incest is similar to gay relationship in being just another deviant sexual behaviour.

Argument: Children born out of incest will suffer from deformities whereas there is no such risk with a gay relationship.

Will an incestuous relationship be accepted if the parties agree not to procreate? What if one of the parties is sterilized? If procreation of healthy offsprings is the concern, then should not an age limit be prescribed for heterosexual marriages, since the risk of deformed children being born increases with age? There are many heterosexual individuals with diseases and disorders that can potentially be passed on to the next generation. Should such persons not be allowed to marry?

Finally, will the liberals support Nazi-style eugenics, which is what this argument is really about? More importantly, won’t legalising incest prevent parties from going into hiding fearing law and social stigma, thus making them inaccessible to health workers and councillors, as argued for gays in the context of spreading of HIV/AIDS? Clearly, this argument does not help the liberals trying to distinguish incest from a gay relationship.

Argument: Consent is never free in the case of incest due to complex family relationships.

This is not factually correct, as can be seen from few reallife instances referred to below. Even more so, if the relatives have lived apart most of their lives. A simple mechanism to ascertain consent can resolve this issue. The argument that legalising incest will lead to an increase in child abuse also does not seem to be correct. Bharat, which does not have any anti-incest law, has far fewer cases of incestuous child abuse compared to certain other countries which have strong laws criminalising incest. Therefore, this argument to distinguish a potential pro-incest law from a pro-homosexuality law does not hold water.

Argument: Incest will destroy the institution of family.

Well, this is the foremost argument of conservatives against homosexuality. Conservatives argue that every child needs a father and a mother and not two fathers or two mothers (in cases of adoption or assisted reproduction). If this argument is given a go-by for gays, so it can be in the case of consensual incest.

Argument: If heterosexuals do not have to justify incest to be in a heterosexual relationship, why should gays have to accept incest to defend themselves?

Gays have to defend incest because moral indignation of the society against homosexuality is similar to that against incest, whereas, heterosexuality is considered the norm by society.

Argument: Banning gay sex and marriage will leave gays no choice of a partner. Ban incest and close relation-marriage and the person can still find someone else of the opposite sex.

The argument is that it is not fair to compare a ban on incest and homosexuality since a gay will be left with no chance of finding love because he or she will never be happy with someone of the opposite sex. Whereas, they argue that even if incest is banned, the person can still move on, and find someone else of the opposite sex (heterosexual) or same sex (gay). However, on what basis does one ask someone to move on? Would that person then, not be entitled to argue his right to individual freedom, right to privacy and right to full personhood etc.? This argument may be useful only if it is otherwise made out that incest should be banned while permitting homosexuality. Now that we have found that no such case can be made out, this argument also doesn’t help the gay community.

Argument: Incest is not a real issue. There is no possibility of any campaign in the future for acceptance and legitimisation of incest.

This argument is causing confusion even among conservatives. Let us consider whether adult consensual incest is a ‘real issue. Despite incest being a strict taboo, ‘fauxcest’ or fictional incest pornography is today one of the most popular internet pornography theme world over. According to reports, the trend in Bharat is no different. Online fictional erotic stories of romance and sexual relationship between close relatives are highly popular in Bharat, as in other countries.

Enforcing the law against pornography, in 2009 when our law enforcement agencies clamped down a popular online adult comic series ‘Savita Bhabhi’, the same was met with stiff opposition from liberals. In an article in DNA, the author castigates the government for acting against this explicit comic series depicting the sexcapades of a married Bharatiya woman, which include incest, in the following words, What is really disturbing, therefore, is the meddlesome, patriarchal mindset that underlies the decision to confine this iconic representative of a sexually liberated young Bharatiya naari to a chastity belt of the technology age.

A quick search on www.imdb.com, a popular online database of information regarding films and television programs shows that in the year 2015 alone, more than 15 mainstream movies/tele-series episodes were released, which had incestuous plots. From oblique references in past to explicit scenes, from sordid tales of degeneration to happy endings with the ‘true love’ found, the depiction of consensual incest in mainstream movies and television series has changed drastically over time.

The television series ‘Game of Thrones’, filled with explicit incest scenes, has huge viewership in Bharat and is widely publicised in our media. Experts suggest that an explicit mainstream series like ‘Game of Thrones’ with wide viewership can normalise a practice and reduce stigma, shame and judgment and further, that over repeated exposure to incest will lead to a positive reinforcement which will influence one’s fantasies.

Shifting from reel to real, let us come see how the liberals world over have reacted to some recent, real-life cases of consensual incest. Most infamous is the case of Patrick Stübing of Germany, details of which can be read from his dedicated Wikipedia page. What is to be considered here is how the government-backed German Ethics Council reacted to criminal prosecution of Patrick Stübing. In 2014, the Council announced that incest is a fundamental right and said that, “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family and that “criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo. Do these arguments sound familiar? There’s more. The Council further said based on its extensive research that it found that many incestuous couples are forced to live in secret, indicating that it is difficult to reach assistance to the parties and children born to them.

This is akin to the argument of NAZ Foundation, the petitioner before the Delhi High Court, an NGO which works in the field of intervention and prevention of HIV/AIDS. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a petitioner before Supreme Court, argued in support of Section 377 that intercourse between two homosexuals is a high risk activity, which exposes both the participants to the risk of HIV/AIDS and that a bisexual would spread infection outside the community. However, this argument was turned on its head, when NAZ argued that homosexual activity should be legalised to prevent spreading of HIV/AIDS since Section 377 forces homosexuals to live in secret, inaccessible to health workers.

In reporting another recent case of mother-son consensual incest in U.K, the Indian media was quick to join the parties and foreign media in blaming it on the psychological phenomenon called ‘genetic sexual attraction’. This attempt to portray helplessness of the participants is somewhat similar to the argument (also made before Supreme Court) that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic present from birth.

In February 2016, the youth wing of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party, now called ‘Liberalerna’ which was part of the coalition government in Sweden from 2006 to 2014 demanded that incest and necrophilia (fetish for sex with dead body) should be legalised. The youth wing said that just because it is viewed as unusual and disgusting, does not mean that the depraved sexual acts should be illegal.

Arguing for legalising necrophilia, they said that if a person records his or her consent in the written will to someone having sex with their corpse, it should be permitted. A youth leader who may in future take over the reign of this mainstream political party said, “It should be your own decision what happens with your body after you die, and if that happens to be that you want to bequeath your remains to a museum or to science, or if you want to bequeath your remains to someone to sleep with them, then that should be ok.

In 2010, the upper house of the Switzerland parliament drafted a bill legalising incest, for the government’s consideration. Though it seems the attempt was unsuccessful due to opposition from conservative parties, the spokesperson of the justice department was quoted as saying that, “ ..it’s not up to criminal law to stop every morally reprehensible aspect of behaviour.”

In 2014, an Australian judge likened incest with homosexuality and said thatA jury might find nothing untoward in the advance of a brother towards his sister once she had sexually matured, had sexual relationships with other men and was now ‘available’, not having [a] sexual partner“. The Judge added that If this was the 1950s and you had a jury of 12 men there, which is what you’d invariably have, they would say it’s unnatural for a man to be interested in another man or a man being interested in a boy. Those things have gone. This comment was widely condemned and the judge was called a misogynist since the comment was made during the trial of a brother charged with raping his minor sister.

The United States is a country divided, the rift between conservatives and liberals has widened after the election of President Donald Trump. The conservatives, inspired by Christian values had fought and lost the battle against decriminalisation of gay relationships and thereafter against legalisation of gay marriages. In an interesting video made in the backdrop of the 2016 presidential election, liberal Americans are seen saying that they will not oppose incestuous relationships. Most of them say that it will not be correct for them to ‘judge’ a person involved in an incestuous relationship. One person says that to question another person involved in an incestuous relationship will be to infringe that person’s right to privacy.

Last month, an independent congressional candidate contesting from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District declared that he wants to legalise incest and have sex with his 3 year old daughter. Having collected the 1000 endorsing signatures required to be eligible to contest, he told in an interview that, “the state should not interfere with people’s decisions. Like if people were to say, well, the genetic quality might not be as good if people inbreed, they could say the same thing about a lot of people who have bad genetics who should be passing on. These days there’s a lot of genetics tests. We can tell what kind of things people have.”

Back in Bharat, around the time we celebrated Raksha Bandhan in 2015, a left-liberal author wrote an article titled,What’s wrong with a brother and sister falling in love?. Purporting to be in the context of the Sheena Bora murder case (which finds mention in one sentence), the article starts with the reference to author’s “earliest male admirer”, her cousin she called “Dada”. The left-liberal author, in this article containing an image of tying of ‘Rakhi’, asks, “Will a festival like Raksha Bandhan, celebrated with much aplomb in this country, and defines so much of what is sacred between siblings – besides tacitly validating the eternal feminine need of being protected by a stronger male prototype – be blown to bits by our own moral disclosure that man-woman attractions are pure biology. And nothing more?. The author who is a recipient of “Women of Worth Award” from NDTV uses the tag “#Raksha Bandhan” in the article so that the article will show up in the search results for Raksha Bandhan!

In 2015, an article appeared in the Huffington Post where the author who claims to be a ‘historian of religion’ expresses her disappointment about the reluctance of Bollywood to portray incest boldly. She ended the article by hoping that filmmakers will explore “this grey zone which remains largely underexplored in Bollywood”. Her wish was granted by Bollywood in 2018 with the release of a movie titled ‘I am Roshni’. The writer cum producer of the romantic love story of a brother and sister says that the movie is “crafted in an emotionally sensitive manner that will make viewers deeply empathise with the two innocent protagonists”.

Don’t be silenced.

The above are only a few illustrative instances, which show that the threat is real. That day is not far when some left-liberal celebrity in our country will come on an NDTV show demanding his right to love a family member. If you are ready to accept homosexuality, be ready to accept incest also. Morality won’t come to your rescue then. Individualistic pursuit of pleasure is never-ending.

What is at stake is the institution of family, which is at the heart of the Bharatiya way of life. The West, with an already disintegrating institution of family, has not much to lose compared to us. Engrossed in pursuit of absolute individual freedom, the West is only waking up to the consequences of lack of moral values and now they are fighting back.

Even as the case is being argued before the Supreme Court, the NAZ foundation is preparing to fight for larger civil rights involving marriage, inheritance, adoption, live-in relationships etc. While nobody wants to see gays punished, what the majority, cutting across religions is concerned about is the demands that will arise after the decriminalisation. On the subject of gay rights, if you are convinced that our society is headed down a slippery slope, don’t be afraid to speak out. Terms like ‘homophobia’ are designed by them to silence you.

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