Letter : Sex `norm' is just Western bias

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Sir: Polly Toynbee's diatribe against Anne Atkins (9 December) reveals far more about her own rather narrow, monocultural world-view than it does about Anne Atkins.

"In the real world," Ms Toynbee pontificates, "sex before marriage is the norm; and the idea of being locked in indissoluble marriage with someone you never had sex with is grotesque." Oh really? Says who? As one who has spent the majority of my working life in the countries of South Asia, perhaps I may gently remind Ms Toynbee that, for countless millions in the world today, such a practice is still the cultural and religious norm.

I and my Egyptian relatives, my Nepali, Indian and Afghan friends, not to mention many British friends (of Asian ethnic origin and/or Christian convictions), find it patronising in the extreme to be told, by implication, that we do not inhabit "the real world" or that our cultural and religious norms are "grotesque", simply because they fail to conform to Ms Toynbee's superior and ethnocentric cultural perspectives.

G K WARDELL

Kathmandu, Nepal

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