RE: Does Indian tradition approve of homosexuality?
Reading `Hindu' as 'Indian', and vice versa, denies the reality of the sub-continent's civilizational and intellectual history. The dominance of non- Brahmanical Buddhist principles and practice for at least three centuries is inextricably linked with our socio-cultural practice. Further, the long history of exchange with other religio-cultural traditions like Islam and christianity, has contributed integrally to our culture. The 19th C use of the word `hindu' to refer to Brahminism, and then to conflate this with the term `Indian' is a British colonial construct, i.e. a part of the Macaulayian legacy you so rightly reject.
Are alternative personal, social, cultural and sexual options to be `ignored' as 'not worthy of public discussion' because they are in your so-called majoritarian, mainstream viewpoint, `marginal'? This fundamentally undemocratic perspective can never countenance reform or change, which by definition arises in opposition to prevalent mainstream ideas.
Patriarchy was certainly the dominant form extolled in the ramayana, in Brahmanical texts and in other traditions over centuries; however, it cannot be ignored that the sufi and bhakti traditions were a major form of popular opposition to it. Uncritically upholding patriarchal norms of moral conduct in this day and age reveals a closed mindset.
The discourse of rights for Gays etc., is a contemporary discourse and requires both an openness and a focus that the above positions deny in principal. The discourse is one of equal rights, freedom of choice and expression of one's life, on the one hand and on the other, the nature of contemporary law and what it defines as criminality, in providing legal protection of these rights. The `closet' approach that you adovocate as being the Hindu approach - i wont go into the merits of that claim! - seeks to silence rather than engage with diversity in order to understand that the so called `other' is in fact `one of us' with similar rights and concerns.
To my mind, there are two major areas of concern in the present communication and which are as follows:
Firstly, what is the philosophy and purpose of the Indian Law? Secondly, how does one address the divergence between law and practice?
We have to understand that the purpose and philosophy of the Indian law is to modernise the Indian tradition. While a modernising India decided not to part with the humanist aspects of tradition, namely upholding family ties, celebrating the purity of certain emotional relationships and so on, what it really attacked was the various forms of unfreedom that did not allow individuals to fully utilize their talents and rights as individuals.
Were it not for our pursuit of modernity, women would still be burnt as Sati, untouchables would be beaten up by sticks and lower castes would not be allowed entry into public spaces. That still happens in India but it happens without the sanction of the law and are thus illegitimate. In traditional India such things would have been legitimate but in today's India, these are illegal.
The idea of law in India is meant to provide freedom to individuals irrespective of their caste, creed and community. Hence, matters that arise out of choice of individuals are to be free of the law. This is the sole point where the Indian law differs from the Western law because the latter is a disciplining and a normalizing effort that draws from a disciplinarian and often fundamentalist Christian Churches.
Homosexuality is therefore free from law in India if it is between two consenting adults. But it does not have the sanction to have the same institutional sanctity of a "normal marriage". To my mind, it is the latter that the Delhi High Court Ruling has failed to challenge and I wish that it should be challenged.