OPINION

Gay Sexuality Not Welcome

January 28, 2006
Sakshi Juneja

For centuries being a homosexual in India has been a taboo and considered a curse. For most men and women it can mean a lifetime of ridicule and persecution for showing even a slight interest in members of the same sex. With homosexuality classed as illegal under an outdated 141-year-old law that prohibits "unnatural" sexual acts, resulting in a punishable offence, it has become virtually impossible for most Indian homosexuals to be completely open about their sexuality.

Nevertheless, actions have been taken by various organizations and (some) brave individuals to help bring India's vast gay community (estimates ranging from five to 50 million) back out from the fringes of existence to the heart of society.

Reading Sonia Faleiro's post titled "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!", where she writes about her discussion with one of the most well-known "gay" personality in the Indian Entertainment Industry, our very own 'Bobby Darling', it stirs up mixed emotions, atleast that's what it did to me. At one end it makes you feel 'glad' knowing that there are people who will leave no-stone unturned to achieve what they truly believe is their right, but then on the other hand it makes you 'miserable' and 'angry' on again realising the fact that our lives revolves so much around the "do's & don'ts" of the society. A society that will go to any extent to demoralise and ridicule people who do not live up to their aka the society's set of rules and demands.

Homosexuality, it could be said, signifies lives which challenge the society's norm, which states that the only valid way of sexually/romantically relating to one another is within the framework of either marriage or a heterosexual relationship. It includes the gay man cruising in a public park, the transgender person changing her name from Sanjay to Sanjana and living in society with her new identity, the two brave women who decide that they are going to live with each other regardless of societal disapproval.

While some individuals like Bobby Darling and Ajay Mafatlal stand for stories of resilience and bravery it also signifies violence and hatred which have severely brutalized and in some cases broken the resistance of many. There are many men and women who attempt suicide because of their homosexual desire and hence feels worthless in the eyes of God, family and wider society, and then we also have hijras who are subject to brutal and repeated rape by the police.

Whenever, there is a talk of making a law of homosexual marriages, the Govt. of India and all anti-gay organizations take the plea of 'Section 377 of the IPC' which prohibits anal intercourse. Under Section 377 of the IPC, "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" can invite a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and fine. They say that first this section must be repealed before the bill can be presented in the parliament. This they do with an intention to suspend the matter and have been very successful at it. It may be recalled that section 377 was introduced in India and United Kingdom by the British Government in 1860. In the United Kingdom, this section has already been removed long back (Anal sex between two consenting men is not an offence in UK provided both the partners are at least 16 years old).

Government's excuse behind 'Section 377 of the IPC' -

In paragraph 32, the government states: "In fact, the purpose of this section 377 IPC is to provide a healthy environment in the society by criminalizing unnatural sexual activities against the order of nature."

Says paragraph 33: "If this provision is taken out of the statute book, a public display of such affection would, at the most, attract charges of indecent exposure which carry a lesser jail sentence than the existing imprisonment for life or imprisonment of 10 years and fine. While the government cannot police morality, in a civil society, criminal law has to express and reflect public morality and concerns about harm to the society at large. If this is not observed, whatever little respect of law is left would disappear, as law would have lost its legitimacy."...

The ridiculousness of Section 377 of the IPC, which links homosexuality to sodomy and makes such sexual orientation a punishable offence, is magnified by the fact that gays and lesbians across the globe enjoy the same rights as 'normal' citizens. The proscription of sodomy in the English tradition began in 1533 when King Henry VIII adopted contemporary church doctrine into a system of laws at the time of the English withdrawal from the Catholic Church. Sodomy became both a sin and a crime, since ecclesiastical law recognises no distinction between the concepts of 'sin' and 'crime'. Sodomy included any form of non-procreative acts including masturbation, oral and anal sex.

Originally, sodomy referred only to two sexual acts: anal intercourse between two men or a man and a woman, or sexual intercourse between a human being and an infrahuman animal of the opposite sex. Due to the profound ignorance of biology of people in medieval times, it was thought that bestiality could lead to the conception of half-human, half-beast offspring. The Indian legal system has not only taken on this perspective, but has added its own brand of prudishness.

Gays. Lesbians. Bisexuals. Tans-gender individuals have no rights to marry, adopt children or even protest against discrimination at the workplace... in fact, no right to be recognised as normal human beings free to live life as billions of other do. All because of sexual orientation. That is a fearful scepter indeed for a country where more than 10 per cent of the population is comprised by GLBTs. Should we continue to allow this inhuman reality? That is the question.

It's high time that the government and the society starts concentrating its energies in the right direction - like tackling the ever-growing phenomenon of violence against women and children, create AIDS/HIV awareness, etc — and allow consenting adults to make their own choices about sexual behavior.

*Sources :

1. No Gays, Says Society
2. India's hidden gay community comes out of the closet
3. Big Brother in the bedroom: 'Unnatural' offences and Section 377

Saakshi O. Juneja is an active blogger, feminist and overboard dog lover. Currently working as a Business Development Manager for a sportswear manufacturing company in Mumbai, India. Did graduation in Marketing & Advertising from Sydney, Australia. As far as blogging is concerned...is a complete Blog-a-holic.
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#1
temporal
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January 28, 2006
12:06 PM

draconian laws should be dismantled and G/L should be recognized as human beings...no more and certainly no less...that would be the ideal way out...but the ideals are seldom realized...

...here in canada the previous liberal government legislated same-sex marriage...in the recent elections the liberals were shown the door and the conservatives gained a minority lead...in their platform they want to do away with same-sex marriages...voters speak!

#2
Sooraj
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January 28, 2006
05:33 PM

You keep blaming the society - but apart from some religious groups, how does the society "demoralize and ridicule" homosexuals?

#3
deepti lamba
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January 28, 2006
09:05 PM

Sakshi, the laws of the land may be against the gay community but as such Indians are quite used to gays.

We never thought much when we, as children saw men holding hands at India Gate.

The gay culture was very much accepted amongst the lower classes and now with Western culture slowly but surely permeating the middle class is also coming around.

Hindu culture doesn't say anything against gay love, as you know, portrayals of lesbianism and transgendered people exist on temple walls and in books.

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