[INDOLOGY] sex and gender

Nagaraj Paturi nagarajpaturi at gmail.com
Wed Aug 16 10:28:14 UTC 2017

This is a report published in another list:

Prof *Bharat Gupt*, a classicist and dharma shastra scholar gave a talk at
the Habitat Centre on Nov 25 on "Hindu View of Homosexuality." He examined
the issue along with a fellow speaker and discussant Dr. Come Carpentier.
He observed that talking about the Rights of the Homosexual/Gay individuals
seems to be one of the major agendas of social reforms in India today. Many
people think that ancient Hindu ideas were entirely compatible with the
views of modern European and American notions.

    Therefore it was imperative that one goes to see the classical texts to
collect evidence on the status and life of homoerotic individuals in
ancient India. One hears all the time, he said,  the usual sentiment that
as Hinduism is a very tolerant culture, that it was totally open
homosexuality and that it was more modern than the moderns. Many people
argue, like the scholars of the Hare Krishna order, that as Hinduism
believes that every human being is part of Supreme Being Brahma,
homosexuals cannot be considered as beings of lower category. They also
think, with out any evidence,  that in the Vedic age, homosexuals were
fully integrated into social and monastic orders. Prof Guptsaid that most
of these sentiments are uninformed.

    Talking about the textual evidence, Prof Gupt mentioned that the
*KAMASUTRA* of Vatsyayana, does define a third order of humans called
the *'tritiiyaa
prakriti'* or third nature. This third nature persons are of two kinds, one
of the female kind and the other of the male sort *("dvividhaa
tritiityaaprkritih, striiruupinii* *purusharuupinii ca."* 2.9.1).
Vatsyayana goes on to say that "she", who behaves like a woman, is to be
employed for oral sex ("*tasyaa vadane jaganakarma tadauparisht.akamm
aachakshate"* 2.9.3). She was a paid sex-worker like a courtesan (*'vaishyaavat
charitam prakaashayet'* 2.9.5) . For the male kind who has the desire for
males but who cannot make her nature very evident, 'he' should take to the
profession of massage-giver and thus coming into contact with males satisfy
them through oral sex (2.9.6-10). In this context the act of *auparisht.aka* is
described in detail in the *Kamasutra*.

    The ancient Hindu society, as is evident here, did not consider the
homosexuals as perverts or sinners. As the term, *tritiiya-prakriti* or
third nature describes them, they are being themselves, they are being
natural. This is the primary difference between the Christian and the Hindu
attitude. Christianity did not accept the third nature and hence imposed a
punishment on their activities.

    For the Hindu social order the homoerotic were not expected to follow
the heterosexual norms of behaviour. So they cannot be blamed for being
what they are. And for this reason, accepting their nature, they were
not excommunicated or purged from human societies. They had to be given a
place in it and they were to be protected and prevented from harm by the
State. The *Arthashastra *prescribes a fine for those who persecuted a
homoerotic person (3.18.4) and it does not prohibits making of eunuchs
even  in the conquered population by a king by castrating captured males of
the vanquished (13.5.13). Thus Hindu society accepted the third nature of
persons who were born with it and did not want to replicate them for any
purpose of social engineering. Prof Gupt said that Christians promoted
homosexuals to practice religious castration and Muslims profusely
castrated the vanquished populations to create classes of menial and
warrior slaves. Dr. Come Carpentier pointed out that modern corporations
want to promote homoeroticism as homosexuals not having the burden of
families are great consumerists and hence great customers.

    While accepting the third nature persons, the ancient Hindus gave them
a special place in the social order. They were designated to be part of the
class of sex-workers and performers of music and dance. As till around the
10 century prostitution was a legal profession, taxed and protected by the
State and enshrined as duty of the king in the dharmashastra texts, the
homoerotics as part of the class of courtesans, musicians, dancers and
performers had the legal protection and their incomes and their sustenance
ensured. This position was certainly not respectable and was disadvantaged,
as it was of a lower category. In fact, it was out of the *varna* order or
*varnabaahya*. But they also had the freedom/advantage of not having any
obligations of adopting/ raising any children or performing the rituals for
ancestor worship which was a major obligation for the *varna* Hindus.
Difficult for us to imagine today, it was a free life in a major way.

    Prof Gupt pointed out that ancient Hindu society envisaged marriage
as primarily devoted to procreation and raising of able and educated
individuals who would contribute to society by performing duties to living
and the ancestors. While pleasure (*rati*) was one aspect of sexuality,
*dharma* (obligations) and *artha* (commerce) and moksha (liberation) were
the other three. As the kinnars were not capable of doing obligations they
were made into a special class and given a *jati* or guild. It may also be
pointed out that many homoerotics, impotents or sperm-count deficient
persons continued to be part of usual varnas and jatis. Ways were found to
provide them heirs one method being niyoga.

        Coming to the present day situation, Prof Gupt said that historical
developments have jumbled up the ancient solution. The Islamic intervention
in the medieval period altered the status and social acceptability of the
homoerotic class. The performing arts of theatre and dance were now taboo
in urban life and prostitution lost its legal and respectable status though
still preserving itself as a repository of music and
dance. However, homoerotics had a much greater employment in harems of
Sultans and Rajas and a connection with espionage as of yore.

    It is the British who delivered the stroke of grace for the
homoerotics. The Biblical and Christian prejudice against sodomy turned the
kinnars of India into criminals. It delegitimized the profession they had
earlier and prevented them from taking to a new one. As Indians have been
too slow to alter the Criminal Procedure Code, the section stating
punishment for homoerotic contact has not been still eliminated from Indian
Law. It should be soon done away with the traditional freedom restored. But
the dismemberment of these people from social order created by the British
cannot be restored so easily. It would take some serious research to find
out what are they now tending towards as professions. At a cursory glance
one may say they are to be found a lot in fashion and film industry.

    Prof Gupt, then commented upon the contentious issue seizing the arena
of debate, whether gay marriage should be legalized or not. He expressed
his candid opinion that while gay cohabitation should not be illegal,
persecuted or even frowned upon, giving the same rights to gaycohabiters as
to the married heterosexuals couples is not advisable. Some difference
between gay partnership and heterosexual marriage is necessary. He argued
that children adopted by gays are very likely going to acquire a gay syndrome.
This is going to be unhealthy for the institution of family which is
already under many threats and is almost on the verge of extinction in
Europe and America.

    Dr. Come Carpentier made the most revealing suggestion that Western
fascination with homoeroticism is based on consumerism. Under the garb of
providing equality the same right lobby is going to create greater
instability as gay marriages do not hold any particular assurances of
stability. He agreed that adopted children of gays are very likely to
be gay and
thus we create unnatural gays. Putin has explicitly stated that Russia
under a population decline and they need more children which gay marriages
are not going to provide. Dr.Carpentier said, that gays are asking asking
for unrestricted cohabitation, then property inheritance and finally all
the parity with non-gay marriage.

    The talk was followed by a very animated and prolonged discussion. Many
in the audience believed that there should be no discrimination and as
increasing the population was no longer a necessity in the modern
world, gay marriages
are in no way detrimental to society while others thought them bad for the
instition named as family.

On Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 2:52 PM, Lubomír Ondračka via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Shyam,
> in such a case, a normal starting point would be any standard reference
> work. I would recommend e.g. Brill's Encyclopedia of Hinduism. The main
> article on this topic, Karen Pechilis' entry "Gender" (vol. 4, pp.
> 788-805), has an extensive and up-to-date bibliography. Plus this theme is
> discussed in several other entries in this Encyclopedia (they are easily to
> be found using an index).
> Best,
> Lubomir
> On Tue, 15 Aug 2017 22:44:14 -0400
> Shyam Ranganathan via INDOLOGY <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
> > Dear all,
> >
> > This is a question from a colleague who is not on the list. This
> > colleague teaches a course on Sex and Gender theory and is interested in
> > articles that addresses the topic from differing cultural vantages. I
> > was asked about what was available on the topic that discusses the issue
> > from the perspective of the Indian tradition.  I didn't know what to
> > say. I'd be grateful for any suggestions.
> >
> > Thanks,
> >
> > Shyam
> >
> >
> > --
> >
> > ShyamRanganathan
> >
> > MA,MA, PhD
> >
> > Department of Philosophy
> >
> > York University, Toronto
> >
> > shyam-ranganathan.info <http://shyam-ranganathan.info/>
> >
> > /The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Ethics
> > <http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-bloomsbury-research-
> handbook-of-indian-ethics-9781472587770/>/
> >
> > /Patañjali`s Yoga Sūtras
> > <http://penguin.co.in/book/classics/patanjalis-yoga-sutra/>/
> (Translation,
> > Edition and Commentary)
> >
> > /Translating Evaluative Discourse: The Semantics of Thick and Thin
> > Concepts <https://philpapers.org/rec/SHYTED>/
> >
> > Full List, Publications <https://philpapers.org/s/shyam%20ranganathan>
> >
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Nagaraj Paturi

Hyderabad, Telangana, INDIA.

BoS, MIT School of Vedic Sciences, Pune, Maharashtra

BoS, Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth, Veliyanad, Kerala

Former Senior Professor of Cultural Studies

FLAME School of Communication and FLAME School of  Liberal Education,

(Pune, Maharashtra, INDIA )

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