Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Contribution To the Same-sex Marriage Debate


In 1909  Lord Curzon wrote a tract called Fifteen Good Reasons Against The Grant Of Female Suffrage. Curzon was a conservative man but he was no doddering aristocrat. Far from it, he was a respected senior minister in the British government, Viceroy of India for two terms, a writer and an explorer who had been awarded the Royal Geographic Society’s gold medal for his discovery of the source of the Oxus. The opinions he expressed in his tract were shared by the majority of educated men, and many women too, at the beginning on the 20th century. Nineteen years later the Representation of the People Act (1928) gave all women the vote. One wonders what the arguments being used against same-sex marriage, curiously similar to Curzon’s, will sound like to our ears nineteen years from now. “Traditional values” are amorphous things and they can have a very brief shelf life. Reason 1.  “Political activity will tend to take women away from her proper sphere and highest duty, which is maternity.”  Reason II. “It will tend by the divisions it will introduce to break up the harmony of the home.” In other word, allowing women to vote will lead to the breakdown of the family. Reason III. “The grant of the vote to women cannot possibility stop short at  a restricted franchise on the basis of a property or other qualification…Its extension to them would pave the way to Adult Suffrage. There is no permanent or practical halting-stage before.” At present only people earning a certain level of income and  owning  property  valued   above a certain amount can  vote. If we enfranchise women everyone will start demanding it - labourers, tradesmen, farmers, etc.  It is a slippery slope. Reason IV. “Women have not, as a sex or a  class, the calmness of temperament or the  balance of mind, nor have they the training necessary, to qualify them to exercise a weighty judgement in political affairs.” Woman are psychologically unsuitable to be given this responsibility. Reason VIII. “The presence of a large number of females in the constituencies returning a British government to power would tend to weaken Great Britain in the estimation of foreign powers. Reason IX. “It would be gravely misunderstood and become a source of weakness in India.” In short,  if women were given the vote it will  weaken the social and political order and perhaps even threaten the Empire. Reason X. “The vote once given, it would be impossible to stop at this. Women would then demand the right to become MP’s, Cabinet Ministers, Judges, etc. Nor could the demand be logically stopped.” It will open the floodgates for them to demand other even more undesirable rights. Reason XIV. “The intellectual emancipation of women is proceeding, and will continue to do so, without the enjoyment of political franchise. There is no necessary connection between the two.” Don’t they already have enough?   Reason XV. “No precedent exists for giving women as a class an active share in the government of a great country or empire, and it is not for Great Britain, whose stake is the greatest, and in whose case the result of failure would be the most tremendous, to make the experiment.” There is no precedent for this move and we have no idea what the consequences of it will be.

6 comments:

Shakya Indrajala said...

I think educated men in that generation were well-read in Greek and Roman classics. Democracy, as Plato suggests, is a delicate process that easily leads to brutal tyranny due to political deadlock occurring as a result of too many competing parties. The idea is that too much freedom actually leads to tyranny. Giving women the vote was another unwise step towards "mob rule".

Curzon and his fellows, I imagine, were attempting to look out for the greater interests of their society. It just seems sexist and intolerant nowadays.

Ravi said...

Thanks a lot for posting this Bhante!

I can't believe the amount of (underlying) commonalities between the arguments against women suffrage and same-sex marriage.

Alessandro S. said...

OT, I wish to share with you a remeberance of the late Dr.Ambedkar who, 57 years ago, took the precepts as a buddhist layman:

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=9,11641,0,0,1,0

57th anniversary of historic step to revive Buddhism in India
by Senaka Weeraratna, Sri Express, Oct 13 2013

October 14, 1956 is the 57th anniversary of a historic event that took place in India when Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with about 380,000 of his followers on October 14, 1956 at Deekshabhoomi which is situated in Nagpur, Maharashtra. Ven. Dr. Hammalawa Saddhatissa Maha Thera, a reputed monk from Sri Lanka, presided over this historic function.

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Praise to all who strive to preserve and diffuse the Buddha's teachings and who live by them!

Vinnie Camaro said...

Why should Buddhists or christians -for that matter- follow the latest whims of PC.
We represent eternal values and not the latest fad.
I am a proud 'reactionary'

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Vinnie, if you re-read my article you’ll find that I do not advocate Buddhists following the latest ‘fads’. The post is actually about how some values change. Fundamental values do not and should not be changed, but sometimes we confuse fundamental values with traditions, prejudices, habits and that which is familiar to us.

j d said...

A well know gay activist was on TV the other night stating "all men are pigs!" He obviously works out and is in prime condition and had the gift of the gab...he was all reved up and in his element;
well and good. I say why should one trust him to adopt children and rear them, if his initial statement is true?