Whether homosexuality is legal and socially acceptable to a certain extent reflects the level of civilization in a society. Interestingly, although homosexuality wasn’t technically legalized in Ancient China, it also wasn’t legislated against. From the Qing scholar Ji Yun’s book “Notes from the Yuewei Hermitage” comes the saying ‘homosexuality originated from the Yellow Emperor’, who was rumoured to be the first person to take young male companions to bed. In the classic Chinese novel ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, Jia Baoyu, Qin Zhong and Jiang Yuhan have clear homosexual relationships. Meanwhile, the Ancient West was not as culturally civilised as Ancient China and homosexuality was strictly prohibited. This has a lot to do with the spreading of Christianity. Early Christianity followed the teachings of the Bible and considered homosexuality a great sin. In AD538, Roman Emperor Justinian combined Roman Law with Canon Law and enacted a basic law which said that homosexuality “causes famine, earthquakes and plagues” as well as ‘loss of the soul’. In order to prevent countries and cities from destruction, it had to be banned. Among the punishments for homosexuality was to be castrated in public. From AD541 to 544, the Byzantine Empire was hit by the bubonic plague and people blamed homosexuals. From that point on, homosexuality became a ‘crime against God’ and a ‘crime against country and people’ in Western secular regimes.
But in the present day, Western civilisation leads the times. Consciousness of human rights and their protection has also become increasingly important. Homosexuality has become a key topic in human rights protection, and has won support in most Western countries. From 1998, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights began to urging governments worldwide to abolish all laws which discriminate against homosexuality. In 1992, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. In 1999, the World Association for Sexology published ‘The Hong Kong Declaration of Sexual Rights’: Sexuality is an inseparable part of every person’s personality. Sexual rights are also basic and universal human rights. However compared to Western countries, modern day China is still conservative. Even though the mainland Chinese government abolished the law banning sodomy in 1997, they are unable to establish an ‘anti-discrimination law’ to protect the basic rights of more than sixty million homosexuals in China.
However, across the straits from mainland China, a lesbian couple held Taiwan’s first same-sex Buddhist wedding in Taoyuan county’s Hongshi Monastery on the 11th of August. Both wedding partners are Buddhists and wore Western wedding gowns. In front of Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui and a few hundred relatives and friends, they stamped their marriage certificate after exchanging prayer beads. Same-sex marriage is not allowed under Taiwanese law, but the Buddhist community here took the first steps in leading Taiwanese human rights towards in the right direction. Perhaps beneath the vigorous pressure of the Buddhist community, the Taiwanese government will be able to bring happiness to Chinese people all over the world.
Firstly, I don’t really know why it is that Buddhism is so tolerant of homosexuality. Privately, I thought that all religions were the same: what Christianity opposes, Buddhism would probably oppose as well. I didn’t think that Buddhism was different from Christianity. Buddhist Master Shih Chao-hui explained to the media that Buddhism doesn’t generally oppose homosexuality because according to the Buddhist concept of Avidyā, which means ‘spiritual ignorance of of the nature of reality’, homosexuality is the same as heterosexuality. However, the solemn nature of a wedding helps in reminding oneself to block all wishful thinking and strengthen the willingness and ability to be faithful to one another. Clearly, Master Shih Chao-hui approaches homosexuality with a sense of balance and sees the similarity between homosexuality and heterosexuality: there is love and desire, both of which are brought on by dopamine. Human rights first acknowledges and protects our biological rights, followed by our psychological rights.
With the Buddhists in Taiwan making the first move, same-sex marriage is expected to soon be legalised in Taiwan. This is a good start for homosexuals in Taiwan. However, Taiwanese Catholics have reacted strongly. Paster Louis Aldrich from Fu Jen Catholic University warned that ‘once same-sex marriage is legalised, the spread of Catholicism and Christianity and the ethical concept of freedom will be damaged in the long run. It is possible that members of the clergy may also be forced to conduct weddings for same-sex couples in church.’
This really is a divisive issue. Confronting modernity, China’s Buddhist community is demonstrating its enthusiasm for progress, and showing that it can be a role model in the cause of human rights; the Christian community on the other hand, is panic-stricken and has fallen back into medieval attitudes. Whether it can triumph over the advancing cause of human rights depends on who laughs last in the wrestling match between God and humanity.
Source: 21ccom.net, 15 August 2012
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