HAF Policy Brief: Hinduism and Homosexuality
“Homosexuality has never been considered a crime in Hindu culture. In fact, Lord Ayyappa was born of Hari-Hara (Vishnu & Shiva). It is not a crime in any Smriti. Everyone has male & female elements. According to their dominance, tendencies show up & may change. Nobody should face discrimination because of their sexual preferences. To be branded a criminal for this is absurd.” - H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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 (HAF) believes that this and other fundamental and ancient Hindu teachings may allow Hindus to more openly embrace LGBT rights and marriage equality. In this paper, we seek to elucidate these aspects and, at the same time, elaborate on the legislative history of LGBT rights in India.
A Hindu Approach to LGBT rights
While the equal religio-spiritual potential of all individuals is key to understanding a Hindu basis for dignity for LGBT persons, so too is the way in which Hindu religious texts and teachings are approached. There are two different sets of Hindu religious texts: (i) the Sruti, which are scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads that are believed to enunciate eternal truths; and (ii) the Smriti, which are books like the Manu Smriti and Yagnavalkya Smriti that detail socio-religious laws and customs bound by time, place, and circumstance. Smritis, by their very nature, are time bound and subject to change, and such bifurcation between eternal truths and socio-religious customs underpins HAF’s approach to LGBT rights.
Hindu sruti texts don’t address sexual orientation at all or indeed social issues in general. They state that every being is an eternal soul, or atman, incarnate, and that the ultimate goal of life is moksha, or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Moksha is attained by one’s real self, or atman, which is distinct from one's physical body and personality (ego), as well as outer attributes such as race, caste, gender, and sexual orientation.
Progress towards moksha comes through yogic spiritual practices (selfless service, loving devotion of God, simple living, prayer and meditation, etc.), and its attainment implies, amongst other things, completely transcending material desires and impulses, including sexual ones. To put it provocatively, an LGBT person who lives selflessly and has mastered his or her impulses (sexual or otherwise) is actually closer to moksha than a non-LGBT person who is a slave to desires. Thus, Hindus cannot point to anything in the sruti texts that supports treating LGBT persons as being inferior to non-LGBT persons, let alone supports their persecution.
The smritis, some of which are socio-religious codes from particular eras in Hindu history have imbibed the perspective of the srutis and have never advocated broad-based, harsh punishments for homosexuality. Professor Arvind Sharma, a Hindu academic1 at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, states in his essay on Homosexuality and Hinduism: “It appears from the foregoing account that, save for the emphasis on renunciation, Hinduism is a sex-positive religion in relation to all the other...ends of human life....”
The Manusmriti, which has come under considerable criticism from many quarters for its regressive pronouncements on caste, does express mild opposition to homosexuality, but prescribes such quixotic punishments as bathing in public with one’s clothes on2. The most stringent punishment, that of cutting off two fingers (or shaving the head and riding a donkey), is prescribed for an older woman who has a relationship with a young virgin3. But the concern here is on virginity, not homosexuality. The exact same punishment of cutting off two fingers (plus a fine of 600 panas of gold) is prescribed for a man who violates a virgin woman just a few verses earlier4. Notably, there is also no such punishment in the case of two older women. Prof. Arvind Sharma also points out that if traditional Balinese culture is taken to represent an older and at least a trans-Indian form of Hinduism, the Hindu attitude to homosexuality is one of mild amusement bordering on indifference5.
The Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata mention several characters who demonstrate a range of sexual orientations and gender identities, including Shikhandi, Chitrangada (wife of Arjuna and mother of Babruvahana), and Brihannala. None of these characters are discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Rather, they are all treated with respect, and judged by their abilities rather than their sexuality. Several other ancient works such as the Arthashastra (a treatise on politics and economics) and the Kama sutra have numerous mentions of LGBT individuals in various professions free from any persecution. And stories such as Lord Ayyappa (born to Shiva and Vishnu as Mohini) indicate the mystical and subtle approach that Hinduism adopts towards matters of gender in varying contexts.
Thus, not only do the srutis lay absolutely no bar on moksha for LGBT persons, the codes of conduct of ancient India as well as other smriti texts seem to have largely ignored the LGBT phenomenon, rather than persecute them; or positively focused on their abilities, rather than their sexuality or gender.
What about marriage as a religious rite?
India actually has a centuries long history of wedding rites for hijras, transgender people who have long been recognized in Hindu texts and society, and more recently, the Indian Supreme Court, as third gender. And in recent years, some Hindu priests and same-sex couples in the U.S. and around the world have adapted and found acceptance in traditional Hindu wedding rituals. The Saptapadi, for example, is a key marriage ritual that enunciates seven vows of an ideal Hindu marriage. The vows remind every couple about the true purpose of a life partnership: (i) nourishing one another; (ii) growing strong together; (iii) fulfilling spiritual obligations; (iv) working towards happiness and fulfillment through mutual respect; (v) working for the welfare of all living beings through raising virtuous children; (vi) praying for bountiful seasons which they may go through together, just as they would share their joys and sorrows; and (vii) praying for a life of understanding, loyalty, and companionship not only for themselves, but also for universal peace. The four circumambulations around the ceremonial fire, which is also a part of most Hindu weddings, symbolize the couple's commitment, both together and as individuals, to the four pursuits in life: dharma (right action), artha (prosperity), kama (material pleasure), and moksha.
While the government may regulate the legal right to marriage, marriage as a religious rite obviously falls within the realm of religious freedom. HAF firmly holds that sampradayas, temples, religious leaders, and priests have an inalienable right to define marriage in conformity with their traditions, as they continue to interpret and reinterpret them over time. But because Hinduism has no central authority that controls theology, and values a tradition of interpretation according to time and space by those qualified and with spiritual competency (adhikara), different groups and individuals may move (or not move) at a varying pace on a religious sanction of a rite as fundamental as marriage.
As religious rites of same-sex marriage continue to evolve (or in some cases, not), HAF agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court that governments should not discriminate in the matter of marriage as a legal right or social contract. HAF supports marriage equality for all Americans and submitted amicus briefs in various U.S. courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to this end.
Colonialism and LGBT rights in India
Because Hinduism originated in India and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Hindus live there, Indian law is often seen as a barometer of Hinduism’s attitude towards LGBT rights. This would however be misleading. Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which punishes sexual conduct "against the order of nature" with up to life imprisonment, is a British colonial-era law dating from 1860.
Section 377 is a direct product of Victorian social mores. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report titled “This Alien Legacy” describes how laws in over three dozen countries, from India to Uganda and Nigeria to Papua New Guinea, derive from a single law on homosexual conduct that the British colonial rulers imposed on India in 1860. The report demonstrates that British saw conquered cultures as morally lax on sexuality. British viceroy Lord Elgin warned that British soldiers could succumb to "replicas of Sodom and Gomorrah" as they acquired the "special Oriental vices."
“Colonial legislators and jurists introduced such laws with no debates or cultural consultations, to support colonial control,” the report says. “They believed laws could inculcate European morality into resistant masses. They brought in the legislation, in fact, because they thought ‘native’ cultures did not punish ‘perverse’ sex enough. The colonized needed compulsory re-education in sexual mores. Imperial rulers held that, as long as they sweltered through the promiscuous proximities of settler societies, ‘native’ viciousness and ‘white’ virtue had to be segregated: the latter praised and protected, the former policed and kept subjected.”
Section 377 unfortunately continues to be on the statute books seven decades after Indian independence, and even in 2013, the Indian Supreme Court reversed an earlier Delhi High Court decision that had held section 377 to be unconstitutional, on the grounds that this is a matter for the people and their elected representatives, not the courts.
British leaders of the Victorian era acted against homosexual conduct based on their understanding of the famous Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah6 or the book of Leviticus7 holding that homosexuals were, simply by virtue of that conduct, denied entry into heaven. Moreover, according to the HRW report, notions of polluting sex from which sodomy laws were derived, “traced to an old strain of Christian theology that held sexual pleasure itself to be contaminating, tolerable only to the degree that it furthered reproduction (specifically, of Christians).”
Section 377 unfortunately still remains on the statute books.
Hinduism vs Hindu society on LGBT rights
Colonial era attitudes towards LGBT rights have left a lasting impression on Hindu society in India and, by extension, on the American Hindu community, given that a majority of Hindus in the U.S. emigrated from India, or trace their ancestry there. The matter is further complicated by the fact that sexuality in general is frowned upon and rarely discussed openly in today's Indian society.
However, Hinduism, given its central tenets, is in a strong theological position on the matter of LGBT rights. Hindus will need to face the challenge of recognizing attitudes that are a result of a colonized mindset, lack of understanding, and other prejudices, and endeavor to place the issue of LGBT rights squarely within a careful understanding of the history and teachings of their ancient Hindu ethos.
As Hindus around the world grapple with the issue of LGBT rights, HAF suggests that the following should be key considerations:
- Hindus should understand the scientific and medical conclusions that LGBT orientations occur naturally in a small percentage of most life forms. These are not acquired habits and certainly not a disorder, handicap, or “disease to be cured.”
- Hindu teachings hold the inherent spiritual equality of all beings, regardless of outer attributes. As such, Hindus should not reject or socially ostracize LGBT individuals, but should accept them as fellow sojourners on their paths to moksha.
- Hinduism’s soaring spiritual essence should not be conflated with social practice, and the tradition allows for the understanding and interpretation of customs to change over time. Various historical smritis are testament to such changes, and even in ancient times, smriti never advocated broad-based, harsh punishments for homosexuality.
At HAF, we believe that it is important for Hindu leaders, both religious and lay, to work within our Sruti/Smriti framework to evolve a uniquely Hindu perspective on LGBT rights, rather than follow existing social mores which may be influenced by other factors.
1. Birks Chair of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. See Homosexuality and Hinduism. In: Arlene Swindler. Homosexuality and World Religions. Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International; 1993: 47- 80.
2. Manu Smriti Chapter 11, verse 175.
3. Manu Smriti Chapter 8, verse 370.
4. Manu Smriti Chapter 8, verse 367.
5. Traditional Balinese Culture, edited by Belo Jane, Columbia University Press, 1970, cited in  above
6. See Genesis Chapter 19.
7. Leviticus 18:22 King James Version: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), officially Vivo Indian Premier League for sponsorship reasons, is a professional Twenty20 cricket league in India contested during April and May of every year by teams representing Indian cities. The league was founded by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2007, and is regarded as the brainchild of Lalit Modi, the founder and former commissioner of the league. IPL has an exclusive window in ICC Future Tours Programme.
The IPL is the most-attended cricket league in the world and in 2014 ranked sixth by average attendance among all sports leagues. In 2010, the IPL became the first sporting event in the world to be broadcast live on YouTube. The brand value of IPL in 2017 was US$5.3 billion, according to Duff & Phelps. According to BCCI, the 2015 IPL season contributed ₹11.5 billion (US$182 million) to the GDP of the Indian economy.
The current IPL title holders are the Mumbai Indians, who won the 2017 season.
The Indian Cricket League (ICL) was founded in 2007, with funding provided by Zee Entertainment Enterprises. The ICL was not recognised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the BCCI were not pleased with its committee members joining the ICL executive board. To prevent players from joining the ICL, the BCCI increased the prize money in their own domestic tournaments and also imposed lifetime bans on players joining the ICL, which was considered a rebel league by the board.
"The IPL has been designed to entice an entire new generation of sports fans into the grounds throughout the country. The dynamic Twenty20 format has been designed to attract a young fan base, which also includes women and children."
On 13 September 2007, the BCCI announced the launch of a franchise-based Twenty20 cricket competition called Indian Premier League whose first season was slated to start in April 2008, in a "high-profile ceremony" in New Delhi. BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi, said to be the mastermind behind the idea of IPL, spelled out the details of the tournament including its format, the prize money, franchise revenue system and squad composition rules. It was also revealed that the IPL would be run by a seven-man governing council composed of former India players and BCCI officials, and that the top two teams of the IPL would qualify for that year's Champions League Twenty20. Modi also clarified that they had been working on the idea for two years and that IPL was not started as a "knee-jerk reaction" to the ICL. The league's format was similar to that of the Premier League of England and the NBA in the United States.
In order to decide the owners for the new league, an auction was held on 24 January 2008 with the total base prices of the franchises costing around $400 million. At the end of the auction, the winning bidders were announced, as well as the cities the teams would be based in: Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mohali, and Mumbai. In the end, the franchises were all sold for a total of $723.59 million. The Indian Cricket League soon folded in 2008.
Expansions and terminations
On 21 March 2010, it was announced that two new franchises – Pune Warriors India and Kochi Tuskers Kerala – would join the league before the fourth season in 2011. Sahara Adventure Sports Group bought the Pune franchise for $370 million while Rendezvous Sports World bought the Kochi franchise for $333.3 million. However, one year later, on 11 November 2011, it was announced that the Kochi Tuskers Kerala side would be terminated following the side breaching the BCCI's terms of conditions.
Then, on 14 September 2012, following the team not being able to find new owners, the BCCI announced that the 2009 champions, the Deccan Chargers, would be terminated. The next month, on 25 October, an auction was held to see who would be the owner of the replacement franchise, with Sun TV Network winning the bid for the Hyderabad franchise. The team would be named Sunrisers Hyderabad.
On 14 June 2015, it was announced that two-time champions, Chennai Super Kings, and the inaugural season champions, Rajasthan Royals, would be suspended for two seasons following their role in a match-fixing and betting scandal. Then, on 8 December 2015, following an auction, it was revealed that Pune and Rajkot would replace Chennai and Rajasthan for two seasons. The two teams were the Rising Pune Supergiant and the Gujarat Lions.
Currently, with eight teams, each team plays each other twice in a home-and-away round-robin format in the league phase. At the conclusion of the league stage, the top four teams will qualify for the playoffs. The top two teams from the league phase will play against each other in the first Qualifying match, with the winner going straight to the IPL final and the loser getting another chance to qualify for the IPL final by playing the second Qualifying match. Meanwhile, the third and fourth place teams from league phase play against each other in an eliminator match and the winner from that match will play the loser from the first Qualifying match. The winner of the second Qualifying match will move onto the final to play the winner of the first Qualifying match in the IPL Final match, where the winner will be crowned the Indian Premier League champions.
Player acquisition, squad composition and salaries
A team can acquire players through any of the three ways: the annual player auction, trading players with other teams during the trading windows, and signing replacements for unavailable players. Players sign up for the auction and also set their base price, and are bought by the franchise that bids the highest for them. Unsold players at the auction are eligible to be signed up as replacement signings. In the trading windows, a player can only be traded with his consent, with the franchise paying the difference if any between the old and new contract. If the new contract is worth more than the older one, the difference is shared between the player and the franchise selling the player. There are generally three trading windows–two before the auction, and one after the auction but before the start of the tournament. Players can not be traded outside the trading windows or during the tournament, whereas replacements can be signed before or during the tournament.
Some of the team composition rules (as of 2018 season) are as follows:
- The squad strength must be between 18 and 25 players, with a maximum of 8 overseas players
- Salary cap of the entire squad must not exceed ₹80 crore
- Under-19 players can not be picked unless they have previously played first-class or List A cricket
- A team can play a maximum of 4 overseas players in their playing eleven
The term of a player contract is one year, with the franchise having the option to extend the contract by one or two years. Since the 2014 season, the player contracts are denominated in the Indian rupee, before which the contracts were in U.S. dollars. Overseas players can be remunerated in the currency of the player's choice at the exchange rate on either the contract due date or the actual date of payment. Prior to the 2014 season, Indian domestic players were not included in the player auction pool and could be signed up by the franchises at a discrete amount while a fixed sum of ₹10 to 30 lakh would get deducted per signing from the franchise's salary purse. This received significant opposition from franchise owners who complained that richer franchises were "luring players with under-the-table deals" following which the IPL decided to include domestic players in the player auction.
According to a 2015 survey by Sporting Intelligence and ESPN The Magazine, the average IPL salary when pro-rated is US$4.33 million per year, the second highest among all sport leagues in the world. Since the players in IPL are only contracted for the duration of the tournament (less than two months), the weekly IPL salaries are extrapolated pro rata to obtain average annual salary, unlike other sport leagues in which players are contracted by a single team for the entire year.
The 2015 season of the IPL offered a total prize money of ₹40 crore (US$6.1 million), with the winning team netting ₹15 crore (US$2.3 million). The first and second runners up received 10 and 7.5 crores, respectively, with the fourth placed team also winning 7.5 crores. The others teams are not awarded any prize money. The IPL rules mandate that half of the prize money must be distributed among the players.
IPL games utilise television timeouts and hence there is no time limit in which teams must complete their innings. However, a penalty may be imposed if the umpires find teams misusing this privilege. Each team is given a two-and-a-half-minute "strategic timeout" during each innings; one must be taken by the bowling team between the ends of the 6th and 9th overs, and one by the batting team between the ends of the 13th and 16th overs.
Tournament seasons and results
Main articles: List of Indian Premier League seasons and results and List of Indian Premier League records and statistics
Out of the thirteen teams that have played in the Indian Premier League since its inception, one team has won the competition three times, two teams have won the competition twice each and three other teams have won it once each. The Mumbai Indians are the most successful team in league's history in terms of the number of titles won. The Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders have won two titles each, and the other three teams who have won the tournament are the Deccan Chargers, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. The current champions are Mumbai Indians who beat Rising Pune Supergiant in the final of the 2017 season to secure their third title and thus became the most successful team in IPL history ever.
Main article: List of Indian Premier League awards
Main article: Orange Cap
The Orange Cap is awarded to the top run-scorer in the IPL during a season. It is an ongoing competition with the leader wearing the cap throughout the tournament until the final game, with the eventual winner keeping the cap for the season.
Main article: Purple Cap
The Purple Cap is awarded to the top wicket-taker in the IPL. It is an ongoing competition with the leader wearing the cap throughout the tournament until the final game, with the eventual winner keeping the cap for the season.
From 2008 to 2012, the title sponsor was DLF, India's largest real estate developer, who had secured the rights with a bid of ₹200 crore for five seasons. After the conclusion of the 2012 season, PepsiCo bought the title sponsorship rights for ₹396.8 crore for the subsequent five seasons. However, the company terminated the deal in October 2015 two years before the expiry of the contract, reportedly due to the two-season suspension of Chennai and Rajasthan franchises from the league. The BCCI then transferred the title sponsorship rights for the remaining two seasons of the contract to Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo for an undisclosed amount, estimated to be about ₹200 crore. In June 2017, Vivo retained the rights for the next five seasons (2018–2022) with a winning bid of ₹2199 crore, in a deal more expensive than Barclays' Premier League title sponsorship contract between 2013 and 2016.
|Title sponsor||Period||Sponsorship fee (per year)|
The IPL has seen a spike in its brand valuation to US$5.3 billion after the 10th edition, according to global valuation and corporate finance advisor Duff & Phelps. The brand value of IPL was estimated to be US$4.5 billion in 2015 by American Appraisal, a Division of Duff & Phelps. Duff & Phelps added that the value of brand IPL has jumped to $4.16 billion after the 2016 edition, against $3.54 billion in 2015. The 19% jump is despite the fact that the US dollar to Indian rupee currency has depreciated by nearly 10%.
Team Valuation as on 2017,
The IPL's broadcast rights were originally held by a partnership between Sony Pictures Networks and World Sport Group, under a ten-year contract valued at US$1.026 billion. Sony would be responsible for domestic television, while WSG would handle international distribution. The initial plan was for 20% of these proceeds to go to the IPL, 8% as prize money and 72% would be distributed to the franchisees from 2008 until 2012, after which the IPL would go public and list its shares. However, in March 2010, IPL decided not to go public and list its shares. As of the 2016 season, Sony MAX, Sony SIX, and Sony ESPN served as the domestic broadcasters of the IPL; MAX and SIX aired broadcasts in Hindi, while SIX also aired broadcasts in the Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu languages. Sony ESPN broadcast English-language feeds.
The IPL became a major television property within India; Sony MAX typically became the most-watched television channel in the country during the tournament, and by 2016, annual advertising revenue surpassed ₹1,200 crore. Viewership numbers were expected to increase further during the 2016 season due to the industry adoption of the new BARC ratings system, which also calculates rural viewership rather than only urban markets. In the 2016 season, Sony's broadcasts achieved just over 1 billion impressions (television viewership in thousands), jumping to 1.25 billion the following year. Sony also broadcast a companion talk show, Extraaa Innings T20.
On 4 September 2017, it was announced that the then-current digital rightsholder, Star India (a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox), had acquired the global media rights to the IPL under a five-year contract beginning in 2018. Valued at ₹16,347.5 crore (₹163.475 billion, US$2.55 billion, £1.97 billion), it is a 158% increase over the previous deal, and the most expensive broadcast rights deal in the history of cricket. The IPL sold the rights in packages for domestic television, domestic digital, and international rights; although Sony held the highest bid for domestic television, and Facebook had made a US$600 million bid for domestic digital rights (which U.S. media interpreted as a sign that the social network was interested in pursuing professional sports rights), Star was the only bidder out of the shortlist of 14 to make bids in all three categories.
Star CEO Uday Shankar stated that the IPL was a "very powerful property", and that Star would "remain very committed to make sure that the growth of sports in this country continues to be driven by the power of cricket". He went on to say that "whoever puts in that money, they put in that money because they believe in the fans of the sport. The universe of cricket fans, it tells you, continues to very healthy, continues to grow. What was paid in 2008, that was 2008. India and cricket and IPL—all three have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. It is a reflection of that." The deal led to concerns that Star India now held a monopoly on cricket rights in the country, as it is also the rightsholder of ICC competitions and the Indian national team.
IPL Governing Council
The IPL Governing Council is responsible for all the functions of the tournament. The members are Rajeev Shukla, Ajay Shirke, Sourav Ganguly, Anurag Thakur and Anirudh Chaudhary. In January 2016, the Supreme Court appointed Lodha Committee to recommend separate governing bodies for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL), where Justice RM Lodha suggested a One State-One Member pattern for the board.
- ^The team was founded in 2012 and made its IPL debut in the 2013 season
- ^The team was founded in 2015 and made its IPL debut in the 2016 season
- ^The team was founded in 2010 and made its IPL debut in the 2011 season
- ^The team was founded in 2010 and made its IPL debut in the 2011 season
- ^The team was founded in 2015 and made its IPL debut in the 2016 season
- ^media report estimate