How Hinduism is fighting homophobia abroad – Times News Network

Hindu Gay Marriage

Shiva & Parvati as Ardhanarishvara“Ancient Indian authors and poets imagined a state where the lines separating masculinity and femininity often blurred and even collapsed.” – Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik

Rama Ramanuja Achari, head of the Australian Council of Hindu clergy, recently wrote a blog supporting same-sex unions. His argument: Same-sex attraction is not a personal choice like “Should I have dal makhani or dal fry?”— It is an orientation with which one is born. In the Western context one is said to be “genetically predisposed towards same-sex attraction”; in a Hindu context it is a samskara inherited from one’s previous birth, said the Sydney-based priest.

Clearly, Hindu religion in foreign climes is adapting to changing times, even as India itself appears to be frozen in 1860, clinging to the archaic Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that rules sex between homosexuals illegal and against the order of nature.

Achari has conducted three marriages for same-sex couples, and describes them as “sambandham” (relationship) and not a vivaha samskaram (marriage ceremony.) He argues, “From a legal point of view, when two people engage in consensual sex, what is the problem? There is no crime if there is no victim. And from a dharma point of view, all beings must be treated with compassion and kindness and allowed freedom to pursue their own self-actualisation. Any opposition to their self-actualisation is adharma.”

Similar weddings have taken place in South Africa, Canada, UK and the US. Last month, Leicester-based Chanda Vyas conducted the UK’s first inter-faith lesbian wedding. Kalavati Mistry, 48, met her Jewish soulmate Miriam Jefferson more than 20 years ago on a training course in America. They tied the knot in a traditional Hindu ceremony, wearing red-and-white bridal colours. Even on the happy day, Mistry spoke about how she kept her sexuality a secret for years and how difficult it was for her to be an Asian gay woman.

A few of these unions have been blessed by family and friends, like Toronto-based Rishi Agarwal whose parents overcame the initial shock to throw a bash for him and his betrothed. The Agarwals not only researched their son’s “condition” but ended up starting a support group for LGBT people and writing a book on the issue.

Indian laws proscribing homosexuality are based on Christian Victorian laws which have been rejected even by their country of origin—Britain. Dr Arvind Sharma, Birk professor in Comparative Religion at Canada’s McGill University, says that Hinduism does not share the intensity of aversion to homosexuality found in the Abrahamic religions. In his essay on Homosexuality and Hinduism, Sharma stresses that “we should distinguish between Hindu religious attitudes, and Hindu cultural attitudes” because “as a religion, Hinduism is probably more tolerant than it is as a culture.”

“Hinduism is a plural religious tradition so one should not be surprised to find different views in it on such matters,” he says. In fact his essay was quoted by the Hindu American Foundation, one of the first bodies to support Delhi High Court’s 2009 judgement that struck down the validity of Section 377. In its policy brief, HAF has held, “One of Hinduism’s core teachings is that every being is divine or a reflection of divine qualities, regardless of one’s outer attributes. Aside from the humanitarian imperative to offer equal treatment to all, the Hindu American Foundation believes that this and other fundamental and ancient Hindu teachings may allow Hindus to more openly embrace LGBT rights and marriage equality.”

Britain’s Hindu Council has also supported gay and lesbian rights after a 2009 legislation made same-sex union legal. Its founding member Anil Bhanot says, “Hinduism doesn’t discriminate against homosexuals but gay marriage is not what it ordains in scripture—it’s always [between a] man and woman. However, gay couples can seek spiritual blessings which Hinduism can’t deny.

Back home, in April this year Punjab police female sub-inspector Manjit Singh donned a turban to get married to her love. Though the wedding had the approval of both families it was a quiet affair with many denying knowledge about it later. Not everyone who comes out of the closet finds acceptance. Often culture and society are harsher in their interpretation of religion which leads to suicides or unhappy marriages.

Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik says that there have always been references to the queer and gay in Hindu texts. He gives the example of Valmiki Ramayana which has descriptions of rakshasa women who kiss women on Ravana’s bed on whose lips lingers the taste of their master. There is the Krittivasa Ramayana that recounts the story of two widows who drink a magic potion and, in the absence of their husband, make love to each other and end up bearing a child without bones (traditionally believed to be the contribution of semen).

“How does one interpret these stories? Are they gay stories? They certainly shatter the conventional confines of gender and sexuality. Ancient Indian authors and poets imagined a state where the lines separating masculinity and femininity often blurred and even collapsed,” Pattanaik says. But Europeans who came to India viewed these stories as yet another indicator of Indian effeminacy and Oriental debauchery. Mocked by them, the Hindus became defensive and apologetic, he adds.

This liberal, inclusive strain continues to be marginal in the popular narrative today. In a rebuttal to conservatives, Rama Ramanuja Achari says, “For certain astrological reasons, we marry young girls to banana trees or young men to pots of water (kalashas), and we take these ceremonies seriously and consider them as ‘valid’ marriages. We also perform the marriage ceremony of a stone (saligrama) to a bush (tulsi)—so how can we seriously and morally object to the marriage (meaning ‘union’) of two people who are in love and wish to make a formal commitment to each other to live and love in peace, dignity and happiness?” – The Times of India, 10 September 2017

Hindu Gay Marriage

 

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The Supreme Court has reduced polymorphic Hinduism to meaningless myths – Gayatri Jayaraman

Ganapati in Mumbai

Gayatri Jayaraman“The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths. … Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.” – Gayatri Jayaraman

On the Sabarimala temple issue, the Supreme Court of India observed on April 13, 2016: “In Hindu dharma there is no denomination of a male or female. A Hindu is a Hindu.”

And just like that a constitutional body has, probably for the first time anywhere in the world, become the interpreter of religious texts. In this it is protected by Article 25 (2) that deals with the right to religious freedom but allows the courts to intervene on social welfare and reform, but only on Hinduism. This inability to separate faith and state is now the definition of Indian secularism.

What this becomes is not just a ruling on access to a temple, but a reorder of the entire Hindu faith itself. The source of Hinduism is its Vedas. The Vedas contain entire texts devoted to women. While much is made of that favourite of the book-burners—the Manusmriti, which is not even a Vedic text but a second century code now overwritten by 18 centuries of lawmaking that left much of it behind, much like amendments to the current Constitution leave regressive laws behind—this ruling impacts the core texts of Hinduism, the ones that its philosophies are actually composed of. To say Hindus have no gender and are but Hindus, makes a mockery of much great philosophy

The Hindu epics

The entire Ramayana revolves around Sita’s abduction. And who wages war on the purity or abduction of a man? The entire Mahabharata was wrought upon the Pandu clan because of Draupadi laughing at Duryodhana in the palace of illusions. Kunti, Shakuntala, Maitreyi, Sati, Sita, Parvati, Gargi, Savitri, Ahalya and of course Sabari occur with various catalytic roles throughout Hindu literature. Their roles may be questioned or derided as sexist, and debated, but many texts are metaphorical, contain sub texts that a competent guru could explain, and are subject to interpretation, and they may not be arbitrarily removed from the religion by a non-religious body, and that too one that gives its followers the right to question it.

For example, my guru explained the Ramayana, as a metaphor: Sita as the mind, the deer as material wealth, Rama as the self, and Ravana as the ten senses who must be conquered else will be ruled by ego, ahamkara, and the subjugation of Sita in the purity ritual as the return to one-minded focus.

Others have other versions. Some take it at face value. Are we to toss out our texts and their interpretations because a judge decides it is a sexist story?

The feminine principle

Within Hinduism, the issue of gender is complex and nuanced. Rites and rituals are defined in various parts of the Vedas. The principle of Shakti, the feminine principle of energy, is integral to understanding Vedic lore and, at once empowered with creation itself as well as destruction, is a very distinct energy from male avatars. Lord Ayyappa, at the centre of the Sabarimala debate, is born of Hara and Hari—Vishnu in the form of Mohini, both male principles.

So while the Supreme Court, if it so chose to reduce a spiritual union of male energies to physical form, may be well within its right here to ask why Hindus must be deprived of a law that decriminalises homosexuality, when it is in fact rich with religious precedent as evidenced here, sadly, the honorable court, unable to question the human rights’ curtailing provisions of its own personal laws, is unable to bring up the real progressive questions of India for debate. Instead, it reduces Hindu gender to binaries. The principle of Shakti is also not restricted to women, it is permeable in men. Hence entire sects of male yogis devoted to female energies.

So, as far as any Hindu knows, principles of male and female are not as distinct as the Honorable Judge would make them out to be. Neither is male or female a physical only form, nor is its energy restricted by the gender of the worshipper. Shiva lies in the sahasrara chakra and Shakti in the muladhara chakra, so all Hindus are in fact composites of both energies.These are nuanced positions most Hindus understand easily and are intrinsic to our religious ethos.

Supreme Court of IndiaThe legends of Sabarimala

The legends of Sabarimala, though there are many, one romantically portrays the ban on women as Ayappa’s loyalty for the penance of a beautiful woman released from her curse by his slaying her demon form of Mahishi, also have to do with harnessing the inner male energies.

Ayappa is the god of discipline. Mahishi symbolises the ego. It is in him that Hari and Hara, creation and destruction, come to harmony. The rigorous vows of celibacy, the 40 days penance, ironically, are a tribute to womanhood: they symbolise one day of penance for each week spent in a mother’s womb. Woman, the symbolic prakriti energy, or vehicle of creation is not available to man for these 40 days. Man must pull himself back from his function as procreator and the procreated. The black symbolises the nullifying of the colour spectrum, absorbing all differentiation into one.

Devotees do not even address each other by name during the pilgrimage. The physical state is forgotten, and the pilgrim must subsist on alms. The 18 steps symbolise 18 exercises to remind the student or the householder, of his need to transition to a state of detachment. Women may go up the hill all they want, Lord Ayyappa will survive the seduction of women pilgrims plenty. He is too advanced a master of the mind not to.

One may not be so sure of the men who make the climb though. The penance is for them. To remind themselves that they are one half of a whole, where they come from, who they depend on, and why balance is their function. That it is seen as rigorous penance, is indicative of why men need to probably do this more often, but once a year is enough.

No single Hindu philosophy

The Supreme Court also seems to be reducing Hindu philosophy to a single absolute certainty. Something Hindu sages, the progenitors of the philosophy themselves, never did. There is, contrary to popular opinion, no arbitration on who a brahmin should be. Ram was a kshatriya, Krishna was a Yadava, Shiva a tribal, a kirata, none of them brahmins. Rishi Aiterya, Vishwamitra, Veda Vyasa, Matanga, Nammalvar … Ravana. Many material states in Hinduism are mutable.

The sages even in their expositions mark nothing but the highest truths as certainty. In Chapter 2, Brahmana 4, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Rishi Yajnavalkya asks of his wife Maitreyi who asks him for knowledge instead of the settlement of property he was about to give her before he left for the forest:

Yatra tv asya sarvam ātmāivābhūt:

“Where everything is the Self of knowledge, what does that Self know, except its own Self?”

This conversation with the most woman-friendly of Vedic sages—there is a later conversation with Brahmavadini Gargi also in the same Upanishad—becomes the core of what is to be Advaita. Basically, that philosophy which says that, simply put, all soul, matter, energy, forms, are one.

It is pertinent that Yajnavalkya was himself disowned by his guru, who annoyed by his constant questioning, asked for the knowledge he gave him back, which he vomited out and which was consumed physically by birds (tittiri), now forming the Taittirya Upanishad (and that’s just one version of that story). Yajnavalkya then proceeded to seek the sun as his guru, and procured his own knowledge, which became the Shukla Yajur Veda.

All Hindus do not follow the Shukla Yajur Veda, and much of the caste distinctions are not merely whom you can choose to oppress, but is built on which school of Vedic study you traditionally follow. So when Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi propounded what was to be the base of Advaita philosophy, let’s be clear, they were not following convention. That they were free not to do so, is the beauty of the space the religion lent them even at that conservative period of time.

MonotheismWhy this monotheism?

No doubt, this entire body of knowledge and way of thinking is what the learned judge of the honorable Supreme Court was encapsulating and taking into account when he began to arbitrate what Hinduism says. He had clearly studied it, decoded all the caste links and structures, schools of knowledge, expounded it, and was only thus explaining it in open court. Which is an amazing feat, considering all commentaries and bhashyas on Hindu texts differ, even from sage to sage and commentator to commentator on the same line of Hindu text. Yajnavalkya warns Maitreyi: it is impossible to know the essence of finite beings.

Yet, the honorable judge, has defined all of Hindu Vedic dharma with the clear exposition of advaita, non-differentiation. Where do the Visishtadvaitins, and the Dvaitins, who believe in differentiation, and other things, from Yogins to Nastikas, which Hinduism allows them to, apart from several other schools of thought, go?

The judicial arbitration of Hinduism’s intrinsic principles reduces an entire religion to a monotheism and ignores the multiple layers of consciousness that form its spiritual temperament. The pantheon of Hindu gods exists so a devotee may adopt that which suits his form of bhakti, or adoration, which again is not the only path. Even wealth, duty, study take you there. One is not imposed on another. The myths and stories exist so Hindus lower down the plane of spiritual evolution may comprehend higher truths more easily, in the form of life lessons. The stories of avatars exist to exemplify ways of living and behaving. The Vedic texts exist for those who seek to question on higher planes. This ascent is not ordained by pundits but is open to each member of the faith as and when he or she finds himself seeking it. The multi-layered multi-faceted expansiveness of Hinduism is its fabric.

Meaningless myths

So, yes, the women may enter Shani Shingnapur and the women may enter Sabarimala. Just like Maitreyi may have her own Upanishad. But to do so for the sake of a court-ordained mandate, by which every woman in Yajnavalkya’s time may write their own upanishad, betrays a lack of understanding of the religion. Of all religions on earth, it is Hinduism that refuses to apply a blanket formula for all spiritual growth and understands that every person finds their own ways of spiritual growth, through devotion, through duty, through study, through learning, through meditation, through yoga, through rebirth, and allows multiple channels to do so.

To force ascension is against the inbuilt progression of the religion itself. The Supreme Court, in adjudicating on matters it has no religious punditry over, and in doing so under the protection of the law, and the Constitution of India reduces Hinduism to a bunch of meaningless myths.

Without this spiritual understanding to back them, our temples are just stone houses, and our texts just myths we will never be able to explain. Hinduism’s greatest temples have survived sieges, been shut, abandoned, looted, idols taken underground and protected against being misused, desecrated rather than their essence be lost. And Hinduism has survived it all. But these were mere physical attacks.

The current attack works against the essence of what constitutes the religion itself. By pandering to popular thought rather than any deep philosophical study of the religion or its tenets, it reduces it to its material facade.It is better, that rather than Hinduism suffer this fate, temples be shut down, rather than propagate this unthinking version of myths and stories that then hold no meaning intrinsic to the religion, and Hinduism recede to the space of private spiritual study.

Else Hinduism, under the protection of the Constitution of India, faces a fate worse than death.

It disintegrates into meaningless ritual.

Shut the temples down.

If what the court says today stands as law, Hinduism in India is dead anyway. – Daily-O, 13 April 2016

» Gayatri Jayaraman is an author, reporter and editor based in Mumbai.

Ganga Namaste

Hinduism and homosexuality through the ages – Bharat Gupt

Gay Bombay

Bharat Gupt“The task before Indian social thinkers, lawmakers and the judiciary is not only to provide relief in the present Section 377 mainly to undo the criminalisation of a people done under a Biblical bias, but to refrain from developing a discourse that meekly submits to the approach being sanctioned by the modern West.” – Bharat Gupt

At a time when the Indian sociopolitical climate is charged with emotional demonstrations totally bereft of reason, a glimmer of hope was seen by the gays of India last week when a senior RSS leader, Dattatreya Hosabale, made a statement (at India Today Conclave 2016) on March 17 that homosexuals should not be regarded as criminals in the eyes of Indian law. But after what seemed drops of nectar to the Kinnars of India, the RSS functionary clarified that he would let them go from the clutches of law as they are diseased, mentally ill, and not natural healthy people with just a different sexual orientation.

Hosabale’s volte-face continues the longstanding flip-flop on the issue of homosexuality—its goodness and badness—because the most important factor, the traditional Hindu view on homosexuality, has not been given its due weightage. Both, the contemporary followers of the Western modernism, and the upholders of traditional Hindu values, have simply neglected the vast amount of legal material available from the ancient Indian past. This article aims to provide some basic clarifications which will help us make a timely choice today.

Supreme Court of IndiaHomosexuality and law

As it is well-known, while the Delhi High Court on July 2, 2009 struck down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual activity, the Supreme Court reversed it on December 11, 2013, and also rejected its review petition on January 28, 2014. However, after much campaigning from the civil society as well as the LGBT community in India, on January 28, 2016, the Supreme Court once again decided to appoint a five-judge bench, to consider if the curative petition on its earlier order can be heard.

Will it be so easy for the larger bench to reject all the arguments on the basis of which the SC had reversed the 2009 Delhi HC judgment?  Let us not forget that, on December 11, 2013, the bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya had said that Section 377 “by itself did not suffer from constitutional infirmity”, but clarified that “notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature shall be free to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting Section 377 IPC from the statute book or amending the same as per the suggestion made by the attorney general”.

An impression is being created that earlier the judiciary was conservative in viewing the matter, and now that a senior member of ruling government, namely Arun Jaitley, along with the RSS functionary, have called for a modernisation of the general view on homosexuality, the courts shall oblige.

Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Gay Indian ModelSection 377: A western law

The reason why homosexuals here have been made to suffer the threat of persecution (though not many registered cases in law have been recorded against them under Section 377) is the shaky nature of arguments that are put for scrapping Section 377. We shall see during the course of our discussion why it is so.

To begin with it should suffice to say that just as the Section 377 was a Judeo-Christian imposition, totally foreign to notions of sexuality in India, its curatives now being touted by the imitators of Euro-American contemporary moral relativism, are also equally repugnant to the notions of sex and marriage for the majority of Indians.

In fact, democratically speaking, besides the Hindus, who once upon a time in ancient India, accepted homosexuality as natural for those born homosexuals, but became a victim of the colonial belief in the criminality of the homosexual need, imposed first by the Islamic clerics and then by the Christian British, now in modern India, besides the Hindus (still colonised in so many ways) the majority of the Muslims and Christians are still against dropping Section 377. They are not going to buy the modernised reformists agenda of Euro-American Christian lands which are now aggressively pushing gay rights all over the world to get rid of their own guilt of having persecuted the gays so viciously for centuries.

Kapil Sibal, like the bombastic and loose-tongued courtier Jacques of the deposed Duke in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, has gone full hog for the plea that sexual preferences in bedroom are a matter of adult choice and any curtailment by law is a denial of freedom.

To substantiate, I quote from this Times of India article:

“The most precious right to privacy linked to right to life is sexual activity. If any provision of law restrains such precious right to privacy even when the sexual relationship is consensual and happens within the four walls of the persons’ homes, then it must be termed unconstitutional,” Sibal said. After raising the constitutional question, Sibal added, “The Supreme Court’s judgment upholding Section 377 making gay sex a criminal offence has heaped indignity and stigma on the present as well as future generation, who have and who would have such sexual orientation”.

So here is on a high pedestal the grand notion that two individuals of age 18 or above can have with mutual consent any kind of sexual activity and no social or moral restrain shall apply to them. The sexual bedroom is as sacred, personal and private as a yogi’s cave, where he can do his own sadhana in his own way and those outside have no business to peep in.

NAZ FoundationProblems with Euro-American concept of sexual freedom

A simple look at this kind of worship of sexual freedom shows that it goes against not only common sense but against all values of public and private conduct. Implicit in this argument is that the homosexual act is good and right if done privately but wrong if done in open. This is unacceptable. The act in itself needs to be evaluated as right or wrong conduct. Stealing is bad, done privately or in open. So is adultery. What about sodomy or lesbian embrace?

Sibal is still working under the Euro-American pleas of freedom of the individual and is trying for a revision from the Supreme Court. That is bound to fail. My efforts to convince people like the NAZ Foundation, the main appellant in the case, to change their pleas have failed. They only take a highly dubious position that sexual privacy is a matter of individual right and hence upheld by the Indian Constitution.

The Delhi High Court, under the impact of the Western lobby of sexual freedom, granted the plea, but the Supreme Court struck it down as sexual behaviour is not a matter of individual whims or demands but an ethical issue decided according to the social norms of a society.

Throughout history, cultures have defined it differently. Some cultures have regarded it as according to nature and hence not only permissible but also undeniable. For such a culture, denying it was a cruelty and a legal offence. The ancient Indians believed and practised so. Later in this essay, we have given quotations from ancient Hindu texts. Therefore, it is surprising that previously some scholars with RSS proximity, such as Professor Kapil Kapoor and Dr Subramanian  Swamy, have presented an opposite picture of it.

Under this sort of influence, a young man once emailed me:”However, in R. Shamastry’s translation (the one which is freely available on the internet as a pdf file), we find the below line under chapter XIII, ‘Punishment for violating justice’ in Book IV, ‘The Removal of Thorns’ of the Arthasástra of Kautilya: ‘A man having sexual intercourse with another man shall also pay the first amercement.’  Is this a mistranslation or am I referring to the wrong text?”

This halfway reading of the classical texts, so common now among TV tigers, on religious matters of Hindu tradition, continues to create confusion. This needed the following clarification:

Please see the suutra: “Kushth.onmaad-klaibyaadibhih kutsaayaam ca satya-mithyaastuti-nindaasu-dvaadashapan.ottaraa dand.aastulyeshu”.

“Twelve of more panas is the fine for one who has maligned a leper, a mentally deranged, a klaibya/eunuch (could mean any of the homoerotic kind) through speaking lies or half lies.” Now to 4.13.40: “Striyam-ayonaugacchatah, puurvah saahasa dand.ah., purusham-adhimehtashcha.”

“Penetrating a woman but not in her yoni/vagina, or a man in his anus with penis attracts fine of the first order.”

Now see the context of these different offences.

The first is about “maligning in society”, and not having or not having sex with a eunuch. So it proves that as citizens, eunuchs were protected by law.

The second is about having “non-vaginal sex with a woman”. This refers to unwilling wives or kulavadhus and not to sex workers in courtesan houses. Sex with a man/purusha refers to a man who is not a sex worker or a homosexual. If Arthashastra had meant a homoerotic, it would not have used the word purusha but used the word kliba or shand.a. Thus, one kliba making love to another is not punishable.

The Section 377 of Christian British origin condemns any man to man sex as it does not admit of naturally homoerotic persons. But the Kamashastra and other texts all admit. They allow men to indulge with homoerotic eunuchs and eunuchs with each other. Thus for Christians, all same-sex sex is sin, but for Hindus it is not, if one person is homoerotic.

In short, leave the Bible and go to Smritis. The BJP and RSS will do well to go back to Hinduism as it really was.

For the Greeks there was no reason to delve into its naturalness, as both procreative heterosexuality and pleasurable homosexuality were not only permissible but admirable and a sign of good living. The Arabs and several other cultures influenced by the Greeks accepted this view and in spite of religious sanctions against it accepted it as useful.

For a number of tribal cultures it is not such a big issue and most societies except Abrahamics have looked the other way regarding homosexuality. But Jews, Christians and Muslims have defined it as unnatural and hence a sin/haraam and punishable.

Not surprising in that proposed curative petition hearing, as the TOI reports, that when  “… the bench asked, ‘Is there anyone opposing these petitions?’ Manoj V. George stood up and said his client, the Kerala-based Apostolic Churches Alliance, opposed it, along with the Muslim Personal Law Board. The churches’ association opposed it mainly on religious grounds, saying ‘homosexuality is the negation of the creation of order in human sexuality'”.

So the crucial question now is: on what grounds will the Supreme Court revise the view of earlier bench, when the conservative Hindu majority, along with traditional Christians and Muslims, do not support any revision? And that is why Parliament is not willing to even debate at length, let alone take a stand on the issue.

Of course, the SC in its wisdom may want to support the Euro-American position and scrap Section 377 in spite of the inner rejection it may incur from the traditionally religious public of India. But the West is not going to stop with the scrapping of Section 377. They want a lot more, nothing less than gay marriage, gay rights to adoption and to property, and just about everything for gays that heterosexuals have.

In fact, the West has been pushing for a special status for the gays to propagate and preach homosexuality, as a minority lifestyle, as it promises a great market share. There is more to this movement for gays than just the Christian guilt of having oppressed them for over a millennium.

Auparishtaka (fellatio) image in the Vishwanath Temple, Khajuraho (10th century).The ancient Hindu laws on homosexuals

Many people think that ancient Hindu ideas were entirely compatible with the views of modern European and American notions. Scholars like Ruth Vanita and some others have looked at a lot of Pauranic stories and deduced from them a full approval of the modern Euro-American notions on the subject. The Hare Krishna followers located there have also held a similar view. Therefore it is imperative that one goes to really see the classical texts and collect evidence on the status and life of homoerotic individuals in ancient India.

One hears all the time, the usual sentiment that as Hinduism is a very tolerant culture, that it was totally open to homosexuality and that it was more modern than the moderns. Many people argue, like these scholars of the Hare Krishna order, that as Hinduism believes that every human being is part of the supreme being, Brahma, and hence homosexuals cannot be considered as beings of lower category. They also think, without any evidence, that in the Vedic age, homosexuals were fully integrated into social and monastic orders.

I must say that most of these sentiments are uninformed. The mythic analysis on which Ruth Vanita and several others have relied is not the right evidence as literature was not the place for codification of social laws. The laws by which people lived were enshrined in the texts of laws, the Dharmashastras, and other shastras of social and medical disciplines.

Talking about the textual evidence, the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana, does define a third order of humans called the “tritiiyaa prakriti” or third nature. These 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 jaghanakarma tadauparisht.akam aachakshate” 2.9.3). She was a paid sex-worker like a courtesan who should work like one (“vaishyaavat caritam 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 people and hence imposed a punishment on their activities. With due respect to Baba Ramdev, if they are natural, they are not sick or psychologically challenged, and hence “incurable”.

For the Hindu social order, the homoerotics were not expected to follow the heterosexual norms of behaviour. 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 prohibits making of eunuchs even in the conquered population by a king by castrating captured males of the vanquished (13.5.13).

This was in direct contrast with the Arabic societies and what the Islamic governments did very often as a state policy. The most fierce warrior commandos called the Genitzaroi of the Ottoman Empire were made out of very young boys abducted from the Greek villages under subjugation.

But the Hindu society accepted the third nature of persons who were born with it and did not want to replicate it for any purpose of social engineering. There is ample record that the Christians promoted eunuchs and homosexuals to practise religious castration and Muslims profusely castrated the vanquished populations to create classes of menial and warrior slaves.

As has been pointed out by Dr Come Carpentier de Gourdon [“Origin and Evolution of the Legal Notion of Rights” (PDF)], this strategy of creating a real and/or simulated class of homosexuals for an exploitative purpose is being now pursued by modern corporations in fashion industry. They want to promote homoeroticism as homosexuals who usually do not have the burden of raising families and are great consumerists and hence great customers. The breakdown of the family institution, in modern West, has contributed immensely to the promotion of homoerotic choices (often not psychological and innate but simulated under social fads).

Homosexual encounter depicted in the Temple of Visvanatha, Khajuraho (10th century)Allocation of professions to homosexuals in ancient India

While accepting the third nature of (tritiiyaa prakriti) some 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. In fact, till around the 10 century AD, prostitution was a legal profession, taxed and protected by the State. It was an enshrined duty of the king in the Dharmashastra texts.

The homoerotics as part of the class of courtesans, musicians, dancers and performers had a legal protection and their incomes and their sustenance were ensured. This position was certainly not highly 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 and involved incurring a substantial financial burden. Homoerotics were free from many such burdens of social restrains. Difficult for us to imagine today, it was a free life in a major way given the obligation-bound ancient society.

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 the living relatives and the dead ancestors. While pleasure (kaama/rati) was one aspect, and a highly prized one, of human sexuality, dharma (moral obligations), artha (commerce) and moksha (liberation) were the other three commitments.

As the homoerotics or the Kinnars were not capable of performing those obligations as they could not procreate, 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 with heirs, one method being niyoga.

Coming to the present-day situation, it must be 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 have been taboo in urban life and prostitution has lost its legal and respectable status, though still preserving itself, as a repository of music and dance wherever it survives in, howsoever, an abject state.

Besides the entertainment industry of yore, the homoerotics had a much greater employment in harems of sultans and rajas and a connection with espionage, administration, maintenance and even military protection.

It was 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 delegitimised the profession they had been legally awarded 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 statute books. It should be soon done away with and 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.

Indian lesbian couple Baljit Kaur (21) and Rajwinder Kaur (20) answer questions from media representatives in Amritsar, 19 June 2007, during a press meeting following their marriage on 14 June 2007. Across India gay and lesbian couples are increasingly coming out into the open about their sexuality and same sex marriages are becoming more common place. (AFP/Getty Images)Hindu view of gay marriage

I must comment upon the contentious issue seizing the arena of debate, that is, whether gay marriage should be legalised or not. I express my candid opinion that while gay cohabitation should not be illegal, persecuted or even frowned upon, giving the same rights to gay cohabiters as to married heterosexuals couples is not advisable. Some difference between gay partnership and heterosexual marriage is necessary.

The children adopted by gays are very likely going to acquire a pseudo-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. Indians have to think upon this matter at length and with seriousness as there are already too many detractors in the media and the press who are working overtime to push the Euro-American homoeroticism.

One must not underestimate the fact that the Western fascination with homoeroticism is based on consumerism. Under the garb of providing equality, the “same-sex right” lobby is going to create greater instability as gay marriages do not hold any particular assurances of stability. The adopted children of gays are very likely to be gay and thus we will create unreal but “rightful” gays.

For the Euro-Americans, the challenges are many and diverse. Russia, for instance, needs a population upsurge. Putin has explicitly stated that Russia is under a population decline and they need more children which gay marriages are not going to provide. Quite a few countries like Greece and in East Europe have the same drawback. Japan is facing the biggest population decline in coming years. The present day advocacy of homoeroticism in the West is not likely to continue for very long.

The task before Indian social thinkers, lawmakers and the judiciary is not only to provide relief in the present Section 377 mainly to undo the criminalisation of a people done under a Biblical bias, but to refrain from developing a discourse that meekly submits to the approach being sanctioned by the modern West. It is also hoped a true appreciation and understanding of the ancient Hindu approach will not be distorted by so called votaries of “Hindu interests”, that the Hindu leaders, scholars, saints and sannyasis (like Baba Ramdev who claims that yoga can cure this “illness”), shall actually consult the Dharmashastras and the legal texts before making pronouncements. In fact, convincing the Hindu laity by and large of the true historical facts will make matters easier for all.

For more on the subject please see these lectures: A, B, C, D, and E

Baba Ramdev poster being carried in a Mumbai Gay Pride ParadeKamasutra and Khajuraho

The Hindu Right has to revise its discourse on both. At present even the Hindu Right has accepted what Wendy Doniger and the likes have to say on it, that is Kamasuutra and Khajuraho were a symbol of sexual freedom and rather even sexual libertinism.

I shall like to point out that ancient and medieval treatment of sexuality was highly restrictive. The ancient society was very clear that shringaara was to be indulged only in the grihastha stage of life and was not only to be encouraged but was obligatory. Although part of the obligation was for meeting the demands of procreation for the sake of preserving the family line and the social needs, it was not to be performed perfunctorily but with all the passion and joy that the force of nature releases in a healthy mind. The judicious man was one who knew how to seek sexual fulfillment and yet not transgress in public his other obligations. As Vatsyayana admonishes, one should conduct oneself in such a way in the world that all the three aspirations (trivarga or purushaarthas) of right conduct (dharma), profit (artha) and sexual desire (kaama) are achieved without any one obstructing the other two (“trivargasaadhakam yat syaad dvayor ekasya vaa punah/kaaryam tadapi kurviita na tu ekaartham dvibaadhakam.” Kamasuutra, Trivarga-pratipatti-kara.nam, Chapter 2, Verse 40).

Similarly, it should not be imagined that women dressed the ways the devaanganaas were shown on temple sculptures. These temples belonged to certain Shakti cults, which were not free or open, but esoteric. Yoga was not taught openly, not even asanas. Just till thirty years ago, no asana was done in a park. The Buddhist sexual tantra paintings were made by monks, not by free-wheeling Bohemian painters like M. F. Husain.

Indian intellectuals have a poor understanding of the sexual history of India. The subject has not been studied carefully. We have either men like Subramaniam Swamy who have recently jumped on to the bandwagon of Hindu studies and make misleading statements on homosexuality in India, distorting the historical facts or we have a Sadhu Samaj/VHP aversion to discussion on Hindu sexuality. (Just wait till the courts surprise you as they have done by banning Santhara).

The RSS could have easily arranged for several seminars on the subject through the chairpersons it has appointed to various academic councils and art institutions. There is something more than Aryan invasion and Saraswati river which needs intellectual attention. – Daily-O, 21 March 2016

» Bharat Gupt is a retired Associate Professor in English who taught at the College of Vocational Studies of the University of Delhi. He is an Indian classicist, theatre theorist, sitar and surbahar player, musicologist, cultural analyst, and newspaper columnist.

See also

US too racist and violent to criticize other countries on human rights, China says – Heather Timmons

Human Rights

Heather Timmons“[China reports that] human rights in the US were ‘terrible,’ and that, even worse, there appears to be no ‘intention to improve’ them in Washington, DC.” – Heather Timmons

The United Nations Human Rights Council is in the midst of a three-week meeting in New York, and sparks are flying between the US and China. After 12 nations, led by the US, denounced China’s “deteriorating human rights record,” including an apparent illegal abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers and the arrest of hundreds of lawyers and activists, China fired back at the US.

Fu Cong, China’s ambassador to the UN, said:

The US is notorious for prison abuse at Guantanamo prison, its gun violence is rampant, racism is its deep-rooted malaise.

The United States conducts large-scale extra-territorial eavesdropping, uses drones to attack other countries’ innocent civilians, its troops on foreign soil commit rape and murder of local people. It conducts kidnapping overseas and uses black prisons.

Fu’s comments are an abbreviated version of China’s latest annual scathing report on human rights in the US, which Beijing has issued for 16 years in a row (and for no other country but the US). Last year’s report included a litany of problems that the US faces, from Detroit’s water crisis to the CIA’s use of torture to teen unemployment, and concluded that human rights in the US were “terrible,” and that, even worse, there appears to be no “intention to improve” them in Washington, DC.

Who gets to lecture who on human rights is an increasingly political issue, as Quartz reported earlier. As other governments adjust to Beijing’s rising economic might, some have scaled back their criticism of China’s human rights abuses, even as those abuses have increased under Xi Jinping in recent years. Beijing’s abduction of five Hong Kong booksellers is just the latest in a widespread crackdown on activists, lawyers, and free speech in China.

Human rights experts believe the tit-for-tat criticism misses the bigger picture. “We reject idea that countries have to have a perfect human rights record to criticize other governments,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s director for East Asia, told Quartz earlier. “If we were to follow this road, human rights could never be discussed since no country has a perfect human rights record.” – Quartz, 11 March 2016

» Heather Timmons is the senior Asia correspondent for Quartz in Hing Kong.

Some of the charges China makes against the US:

The human rights situation in the United States is “increasingly grave,” according to a seven-page report released […] by China’s State Council [2015], and unlikely to get better in the near term—the US shows “not a bit of regret for or intention to improve” the country’s “terrible” human rights situation.

The US suffers from “grim racial discrimination,” gun violence, government-sanctioned invasions of privacy, and a deficient healthcare system, this year’s report says. Add to that fundamental inequality:

“Although the U.S. is the most developed country in the world, it is hard for the economic and social rights of its citizens to be soundly ensured. In the process of economic recovery, the income inequality continued to be enlarged, the basic living conditions for the homeless people deteriorated, the health care system operated terribly and the education rights of average citizens were violated.”

China’s wide-ranging list of the US’s human rights offenses includes everything from violent incidents that happened during the past year to more general underlying issues in industry and the economy as a whole. Here’s a sample:

» Excerpted from China has issued a scathing report on human rights abuses in the United States, Lily Kuo, Quartz, 26 June 2015

Human Rights

See also

How India forgot about Pakistani Hindus – David Frawley

Sitala Temple, Lahore, Pakistan. Photo (C) Haroon Khalid

David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri )“Hindus in India do not give adequate attention to the plight of Pakistani Hindus. … Yet should they raise the issue of mistreatment of Hindus in Pakistan, they are criticised as communal or disturbing social harmony. The negation of Pakistani Hindus has been so successful that if one raises the issue, many people think that one is exaggerating or making up their plight.” – Dr David Frawley

Pakistani Hindu WomenWhich religious group has the least amount of human rights in South Asia? The probable answer, perhaps surprisingly, is a group that few think about or recognise as existing—Pakistani Hindus.

The plight of Pakistani Hindus is among the direst of any community in the world and has been so for decades. Yet not many in the world are aware of, much less have any concern for them, even in India.

Hindus in Pakistan are a targeted community and losing their numbers, unlike Muslims in India who are increasing. While there were similar percentages of Hindus in Pakistan and Muslims in India at the time of Partition, Pakistani Hindus have been continually oppressed, marginalised, converted or simply eliminated. The result is that only two per cent of Pakistan is Hindu today.

Most Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh ProvincePakistani Hindus are among the poorest of the poor and do only the most menial jobs. The most basic human rights are not given to them. Pakistani Hindus cannot own land or register their marriages. Their women are commonly abducted and there is little they can do about it. Pakistani courts seldom hear their pleas, or if they do, seldom rule in their favor. Sometimes paying of high ransoms may work to bring their daughters back, but overall Pakistani Hindus are too poor to afford these. A Pakistan Hindu Marriage Act has been in the courts for years but has not yet been approved, though Pakistan has continued a Christian Marriage Act from the British era.

Hinduism is denigrated in Pakistan textbooks as unholy and the Hindu past of Pakistan is almost eradicated from the record. Pakistanis are taught to distrust and look down upon Hindus, as kafirs, if not subhuman. The result is that Pakistani Hindus often face fierce religious hatred by people who do not even know them.

You will not see any thriving Hindu temples left in Pakistan comparable to the great mosques that have continued in India. Hindu temples are neglected, occupied or destroyed. There are no Hindu religious schools of any size or any group funding them like the Saudi-funded madrasas in India. There are no government honoured Hindu holidays in Pakistan, such as Islamic holidays in India.

There has never been any major Pakistan political leader who was a Hindu. Hindus have no real representation in government and are afraid to even try to vote. There are certainly no comparable Hindu actors lauded in Pakistan movies as there are Muslim actors like the Khans in India. In fact, Hindus have no presence in the media or any social influence. The Hindu organisations that do exist often come under vandalism or outright attack, and try to function in secrecy.

Desecrated India FlagWhere is the outrage from any corner?

Ignoring the plight of Pakistani Hindus began with the government of India after 1947, perhaps fearing that highlighting their plight might inflame anti-Muslim sentiments among Hindus in India. It has continued ever since, almost without any question as to its consequences.

The Indian media and academia followed suit after the government, and the foreign media and academia naturally followed their examples. Well-funded pro-Muslim lobbies have naturally not wanted to have the issue addressed, and the large pro-Pakistan lobby in America has invested heavily in trying to show that Pakistan is much more tolerant than it is.

The Left in India has been averse to addressing the cause of Pakistani Hindus, probably because it considers Hinduism to be Right wing and the enemy. Human rights and NGO groups afford them little attention as little funding is available to favor their cause. Even feminists have ignored the plight of Pakistani Hindu women, though Pakistani Hindu women are among the most ill-treated in the world.

Hindus in India do not give adequate attention to the plight of Pakistani Hindus, either. Yet should they raise the issue of mistreatment of Hindus in Pakistan, they are criticised as communal or disturbing social Pakistan Hindu Girls: Abducted, converted, then forcibly married!harmony. The negation of Pakistani Hindus has been so successful that if one raises the issue, many people think that one is exaggerating or making up their plight.

The need for action

Should not all groups in India insist that Pakistani Hindus be afforded the same rights as Indian Muslims? After all, they are both human beings.

Fortunately, the Narendra Modi government is beginning to address the plight of Pakistani Hindus and a few India media groups are making better efforts as well. Yet so far they are only scraping the tip of a massive iceberg of oppression and abuse that will require persistent and determined struggles to effectively correct. – Daily-O,  14 January 2016

» Dr David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Sastri) is an American Hindu teacher and author who has written more than thirty books on Hinduism. He is the founder and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Pakistani Hindus Protest

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Kids starved and beaten for not reciting Bible verses in illegal Christian shelter – Abhishek Anand

Emmanuel Seva Group

Abhishek Anand“The mother, whose complaint with a children’s helpline led to the raids, said she was approached by one Joshua Devraj at a Delhi hospital around three years ago. ‘He said he will raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in public places but never paid us,’ she said. … Their ordeal has not ended even after being rescued. The woman said the shelter’s employees came to her house on Tuesday night and threatened to take her three children back. ‘They pelted stones at our house and beat us up with batons. They fled when the neighbours gathered,’ she said.” – Abhishek Anand

Forcibly converted to Christianity, hung by the wrists from a ceiling fan, starved for days and beaten mercilessly for failing to recite Bible passages—this is what a nine-Emmanuel Seva Groupyear-old boy said he had to endure at an illegal shelter.

He was among 30 children, all from poor families, rescued on December 29 after police raided two homes run by the Emmanuel Seva Group [also known as Charity Seva Groupsee more] in Greater Noida and Meerut. The child, who along with his younger sister and brother had been confined to the home for three years, said their stay was like a “jail term” during which his name was also changed.

“I was allowed to meet my parents once a month for only 15 minutes. The only thing I was taught was the Bible. They forced me to memorise its passages,” the boy told HT on Thursday and added that the children were forced to consume buffalo meat and “paraded” before potential donors.

“They gave us good clothes whenever visitors came. They made us stand in line and recite Bible passages. Faltering meant a beating with sticks and belts later,” he said. “Once the guests left, the shelter in-charge snatched away our clothes, sweets and gifts and we were back in rags again.”

His 11-year-old sister said the children were forced to sleep on a dirty floor that was littered with rodent droppings.

“They never allowed us to step outside. We were not given food for three days at a stretch if we forgot a Bible passage.”

“A case was registered at the Bisrakh police station following the raid. The children complained they were tortured and beaten up for not following the orders of the caretakers. We are investigating whether the organisation had permission to run a shelter home. Three persons, including the caretaker of the shelter home, have been detained and are being questioned. We are investigating the claims of the rescued children,” said Ashwani Kumar, in-charge, Bisrakh police station.

Their mother, whose complaint with a children’s helpline led to the raids, said she was approached by one Joshua Devraj at a Delhi hospital around three years ago. “He said he will raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in public places but never paid us,” she said.

Their ordeal has not ended even after being rescued. The woman said the shelter’s employees came to her house on Tuesday night and threatened to take her three children back. “They pelted stones at our house and beat us up with batons. They fled when the neighbours gathered,” she said.

“The victim’s mother had approached us on December 28. We contacted the police and conducted a raid at Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area. It was found that a shelter home with the name of Emanuel Sewa Group was operating illegally. Seven children were kept there in squalid and untidy condition. The children were also found to be malnourished. A subsequent raid was conducted at the shelter home of the same organisation in Meerut from where 23 children were rescued,” said Satya Prakash, programme manager, FXB Suraksha NGO.

Satya Prakash further said, “The complainant said she was not allowed to meet her children for months and told us that they might have been shifted to some other place. After we conducted a raid, it was found that her children were lodged at an illegal shelter home of the same trust in Dehradun. Following the raid, the children were brought back to Greater Noida.”

He said the children revealed that they were being served cockroach-infested food and were forced to live in a substandard condition.

“Most of them are malnourished and sick. They need proper medication and care. We are in talks with their family members. They will be sent back to their homes soon,” Satya Prakash said.

When contacted, accused Joshua Devraj accepted that a raid was conducted at his shelter homes but refused to comment on the issue.

“Yes, raids were conducted but I can’t tell you much about it. I will comment on this issue later,” he said. – Hindustan Times, 8 January 2016

Emmanuel Seva Group

Emmanuel Seva Group‘Forced to eat cockroach-infested food:’ Children rescued from Emmanuel Seva Group shelter – Abhishek Anand

The children who were rescued from the alleged illegal shelter home near here recounted that their stay at the place was like a jail term where they were punished with lashings and forced to eat cockroach-infested food.

Ram (9), whose name was changed to Rohan Masih during his stay there, said, “I was allowed to meet my parents for only 15 minutes once a month. The only thing I was taught during my stay there was the Bible. They forced me to read it and recite hymns from it.”

He said the caretakers at the shelter home would put on a show as if they took good care of the children whenever donors came.

“Whenever visitors came to meet us for donation, they gave us good clothes to wear and asked us to stand in a queue and recite hymns from the Bible, failing which we would be subjected to severe punishment which included beating with sticks and belts,” he told HT.

And once the guest left after donating money, clothes and sweets, the centre in-charge would tell us to wear rags again and none of the gifts would be given to us, Ram said.

As many as 23 children were rescued recently from the shelter home Emanuel Seva Group in Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area of Uttar Pradesh, which functioned like a forced conversion centre.

Ram’s sister Jaya (11), who was also rescued from the shelter home, said the caretakers used to force her to sleep on a dirty floor which was covered in rodent droppings.

“The food they used to give us was infested with cockroaches. There were more cockroaches than food in the kitchen,” she said.

She further added that they were never allowed us to step outside the shelter home.

“Sometimes, when we forgot lines from the Bible, we would not be given food for two-three days as punishment,” she said.

Ram also said he was forced to eat buffalo meat and when he refused, he was suspended from the ceiling and thrashed black and blue with a stick.

Ram’s other sister Preeti (6) was also rescued in the raid and all three children were rescued after three years at the shelter home. The police raided the home following a complaint from Ram’s mother Neetu.

Neetu said she met head of the shelter home Joshua Devraj at a hospital in Delhi where he offered to help the family.

“He asked us to stay at his accommodation. He said he would raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in local trains and other public places,” said Neetu. “For three years, he used us to publicise his organisation, but didn’t give us a penny. When he did not allow us to meet our children, we approached the NGO and the police,” she said.

She said that some employees of the shelter home came to her house on Tuesday night to demand her children back. (All names changed) – Hindustan Times, 8 January 2016

» Abhishek Anand is the principal correspondent at Hindustan Times in Noida.

Emmanuel Seva Group

Jesus

Outrageous! Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador leads Human Rights Council! – Frida Garza & Svati Kirsten Narula

Charles & Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

The UK and Saudi Arabia struck a dodgy deal to get on the UN human rights council – Frida Garza

The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia both serve on the United Nations’ human rights council (HRC), an influential watchdog group for abuses around the world, but the two nations may have achieved that status by unlawful means. Leaked documents obtained by the Australian (paywall) show that the UK and Saudi Arabia exchanged money and votes to get each other elected to the HRC in 2013. 

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador was recently appointed to lead the human rights council, despite fierce opposition from critics who say the kingdom’s atrocious human rights record—including its recent verdict to behead and crucify a 21-year-old activist

The alleged vote-trading happened in November 2013 in New York, during the session to elect states for 2014-16 membership to the HRC. Discussion of the vote-trading scheme happened over diplomatic cables between the two nations, dated January and February 2013. 

The Australian and the UN Watch, a non-governmental body that monitors the UN, translated the Saudi cables, and found that the UK asked the Arab state to support its candidacy to join the human rights group. Saudi officials responded, by offering their support, in return for the UK’s. 

“The ministry might find it an opportunity,” the cable read, “to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom… in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

In another cable, Saudi Arabia paid $100,000 USD ($66,099 GBP) to the UK for unspecified “expenditures” related to nominating the Arab state to the HRC. – Quartz, 30 September 2015

Faisal bin Hassan Trad (left), Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG), presents his credentials to Michael Møller, acting director-general of UNOG on January 7, 2014.

This is what happens when you make Saudi Arabia head of the UN Human Rights Council – Svati Kirsten Narula

Leaked documents recently showed that Saudi Arabia struck a dodgy deal with the UK to obtain its seat on the United Nations’ 47-member human rights council (HRC). The Middle Eastern kingdom has an awful human rights record—though to be fair the same can be said of other HRC members

But if Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in the HRC—and its ambassador’s chairmanship of a key HRC panel—was lamented by global human rights defenders, its actual impact there has been downright scandalous. This week, Saudi Arabia reportedly pressured the council into dropping an inquiry it was planning to launch into human rights abuses in Yemen’s ongoing civil war, in which a Saudi-led coalition has been accused of indiscriminate bombings of rebel-held areas. On Monday, according to Doctors Without Borders, Saudi forces bombed a wedding near the western port city of Mokha and killed at least 130 civilians, mostly women and children. 

According to the New York Times, the Netherlands yesterday (Sept. 30) withdrew a draft resolution—due largely to Saudi pushback—which would have instructed the UN high commissioner for human rights to send investigators to Yemen and to ask the warring parties to allow humanitarian deliveries of food and aid. 

“In the face of stiff resistance from Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and to the dismay of human rights groups, Western governments have accepted a resolution based on a Saudi text that lacks any reference to an independent, international inquiry,” the Times reported. The new resolution asks the HRC only for “technical assistance.” 

Philippe Dam, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, told the Times that this is “a lost opportunity” for the HRC “and a huge victory for Saudi Arabia, protecting it from scrutiny over laws of war violations which will probably continue to be committed in Yemen.” 

Saudi Arabia supports the exiled Yemeni president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels has instituted a blockade at the country’s ports. It is meant to stop the Houthis from obtaining supplies from Iran, but is also blocking access to sorely needed aid for civilians. – Quartz, 2 October 2015

Victims of Saudi air raid that hit a wedding party in Yemen’s Taiz province.