Should homosexuality be criminalised?

December 25, 2013

Rohit Dhankar

A lot is being written on the Supreme Court judgment regarding declaring homosexual relationship a crime. Most of the writing seems to be an expression of opinion. For any public debate to be intelligent and be able to enlighten it needs two kinds (at the least) bases. One, a set of moral principle that are at the least good enough to be considered seriously by all. And two, accurate information on the issue.

It seems to me that the set of moral principle can be provided by the democratic values. One, the most basic value being well-being of all, without any kind of discrimination. Two, autonomy of the individuals to define well-being for themselves. Three, acceptance of the autonomy of others by all. And four, recognition that human existence and well-being is possible only in social living. Once we accept this much, the rest will logically follow, to my mind.

The problem in the present opinion brandishing on homosexuality is that we (I mean general public, and not experts) do not seem to have adequate information on the nature of this disposition. In my view the major issues are:

1. Is homosexuality something to be socially ashamed of?
2. Should it be declared a crime?
3. Should homosexual marriage be legally recognised?
4. Can a homosexual couple be allowed to adopt and raise a child?

To deliberate on these issues properly we need the following information:
• The issue of innateness
a. Is homosexual disposition innate?
b. If innate, is it unchangeable?
c. If innate, what percentage of people are born with this disposition?
• The effect of childhood experience
a. Does child abuse develop this disposition?
b. Is it learnt through exposure (may be without abuse) to adults sexual behavior?
c. If it is learn though either abuse or exposure, can it be changed?
d. Is sexual attraction directed to the same sex when appropriate partner of opposite sex is unavailable for whatever reasons?

Unless we have authentic information on the second set of questions, we cannot decide on the first set. The second set demands empirical answers, and the first set demands norm-setting.

Does anyone have authentic information on the second set? If it is available, the answers to the second set questions can be worked out by using the empirical information together with the set of normative principles listed in the second paragraph above.