Drawing the rights line
EMINENT PERSONALITIES have apparently taken up with the government the question of "decriminalising" homosexuality as reported in The Hindu dated September 27.
As a paramedical person by qualification, but professionally involved in the media now, I am somewhat disturbed by this development. In the history of AIDS, one of the widely accepted hypotheses in the early stages of reporting the outbreak of the AIDS virus was that homosexuality was a causative factor. Even today, whether that hypothesis is accepted or not, MSM (men having sex with men) are considered among the most high-risk groups susceptible to this infection.
In their anxiety to reach this group with their message of health, the social scientists involved in AIDS control have taken the view that the approach to the high-risk group should be non-judgmental giving emphasis to health and not ethics. From the perspectives of the social scientists this is indeed valid since you will not be able to communicate with the high-risk groups unless you gain their confidence.
This approach works with sex workers who are another high-risk group. However, this approach to MSM groups can result only in short term gains of communicating with them and educating them about the dangers of unsafe sexual behaviour, such as sex without condoms. The same attitude of putting the MSM groups at ease with a non-judgmental approach will however endanger the next generation since the stigma attached to MSM behaviour gets removed in this process. If decriminalisation is also implemented there is a real danger of the percentage of population with such undesirable, unhealthy, unnatural and abnormal behaviour increasing without control.
From a "human rights" perspective, activists take the view that it is the right of the individual to have consensual sex and that society has no business to interfere with the relationships between any two consenting adults.
The appeal to decriminalise is based on reports that the police commit excesses and ill-treat those who are arrested on charges of homosexual practice. The remedy to that should be to educate the police and make them more human, to sympathise with the conditions of abnormality in human behaviour. The solution is not to decriminalise. The stamp of criminality serves the purpose of declaring abnormality and thereby preventing young people from becoming victim to this abnormality.
While we can sympathise with people practising homosexuality, it is an altogether socially, ethically and medically unacceptable idea to treat them as normal. There are no homosexuals among any species of animals. Such practice is fundamentally against nature. With all our sympathy, we have to treat them as abnormal.
However eminent the group of supporters for decriminalisation may be, the government should not rush into such an action without taking public opinion into account. At the moment, there seems to be no voice to express an alternative opinion, just because those supporting decriminalisation include a Nobel laureate and a Booker Prize winner.
This is not merely a wake up call for the guardians of traditional morality and ethics. It is as much to provoke social scientists to evolve alternative strategies to reach out to the MSM group instead of decriminalising abnormal behaviour.
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