The Nature-nurture debate
Celebrations broke out in the streets of Delhi when the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality is unconstitutional and thereby void as it violates Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The liberals hailed it as ‘true freedom’.
On the other hand, Islam and Christianity along with some Hindu organisations, vociferously opposed it as a threat to the institution of ‘family.’ The government which initially favoured the repeal of such a law did a volte-face and called for a ‘larger debate’. Societal consensus is the best way to bring about social reformation. No law superimposed from above would be able to reform a system, unless it gets the voluntary co-operation of the citizens on whom it is exercised. The most important point which made the court declare Section 377 as unconstitutional was that it considered ‘sexual orientation’ analogous to ‘sex’. Thus any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation amounts to discrimination ‘only’ on the basis of sex, thereby blatantly violating provisions in the Indian Constitution.
Here, the most potent question that arises is, ‘what is the reason for having a particular sexual orientation?’ The issue now treads into an area which is part of an age old debate not only in social sciences but also in the biological sciences.
Focal point of debate
Is a homosexual, a homosexual by birth or does circumstances make him a homosexual? If it is the latter, then undoubtedly those circumstances have to be eliminated.
The general conclusion of any nature-nurture debate is that, both play a role and if that’s the case which is more important, the natural (genetic) factors or the environmental factors.
For instance, in the aspect of intelligence, heritability studies have shown that genetic factors are more deciding than environmental factors, although both play a role.
In the aspect of homosexuality if the reasons are genetic, people, with no will of their own, develop homosexual tendencies and if they are considered criminals then it amounts to grave injustice.
On the other hand if it is leaning towards the ‘nurture’ side (result of circumstances, the environment), then any kind of popular acceptance of homosexuality can have the ability to develop a following. It can even become a fashion statement, which can attract people, especially the youth. In such a case, in the long run it can even be a threat to the family.
Psychologists who favour this side of the argument say that one of the reasons for homosexuality can be continuous non-exposure to people of the opposite gender.
This is where the focal point of the debate should be.
A debate always keeps an issue alive; let the debate continue with this in view.