Saturday, 25 June 2011

sexual morality in India

A friend asks: Has Biblical morality on sexuality influenced India today or in the past?

My response:

The simple way of answering your question is: there was no uniform sexual morality in India (and there still isn't). That is because our gods are not primarily moral (unlike the God who is revealed to us in the Bible). As our gods are not primarily moral, nor are my people (Indians). Polyandry was practiced, as was polygamy - at different times and contexts. The idea of faithfulness between one husband and one wife was a direct import as a result of the influence of the gospel from the coming of St Thomas to India in the 1st century - at that time, monogamy was practiced primarily among christians. Monogamy became more widespread only after missionary influence from the 18th centruy onwards. Now, with the influence of the Bible in retreat in the West as well as among the educated and powerful in India (though growing among the less educated and less powerful), monogamy is less influential at least those classes (though still increasing in cultural influence among the other classes).

The British presence had rather mixed influence, as it was spread over somd 350 years - in the first phase, lasting till about 1820, the British took to Indian lack of sexual morality; in the 2nd phase, to about 1890, the idea of monogamy was firmly established, both among the British in India, and among Indians; from then on, monogamy has weakeened though it has become more widely dispersed as an ideal.

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