Homosexuality Versus Violation of Privacy

February 19, 2010
Aditi Nadkarni

Dr.Siras, reader and chairman of Modern Indian Languages at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), was filmed having consensual sex with a same sex partner in his on-campus home without his knowledge. This video was then sent to his university employees. This likely seems the work of a group of pranksters looking for either entertainment or the settling of some scores. Some media outlets speculate that a local news channel may have been involved in this "outing" which I find bizarre.

Our media is now invested in splashing private sex lives over the news? When did that happen? It is very easy for the decent and thinking ones among us to pick out the victim and the perpetrator in this situation. If a heterosexual couple were filmed having sex in their own home, practically everyone would immediately conclude that the couple were innocent victims of a gross violation of their privacy. Would it matter if they were doing it doggy style or in the missionary position when they were filmed without their knowledge? I don't think so. It would be a slam dunk case where police would have gone after the people who filmed the video without Dr.Siras's knowledge and Dr.Siras would've eventually been able to file a lawsuit against the perpetrators. Right? Well, apparently, our societal morals and ethics depend upon a person's sexual orientation. AMU has pronounced this as grievous conduct on part of the professor to have sex in his own home and has suspended him.

It is an interesting time in India for homosexuality and sexuality in general. We as a society have never been openly homophobic or openly opinionated at all about anything remotely sexual. We don't talk about it. We just do it and then shush other people when they bring it up. As a nation we are all secretly homophobic, especially the men of our masses, the ones who adjust their crotches in public and molest women in trains as a mark of their machoism. They might not go around bashing homosexuality in public like the right-wing Christians do in the United States but they do their bit. Raani, chhakka, hijhda, all code for eunuch, are the terms they have coined to add to the existing offensive nomenclature for those whose sexual orientation does not quite fit with rigid ideas of who should sleep with who. Our commercial filmmakers gingerly broach homosexuality in films, often doing more damage than good for the LGBT community in India. Gay men are portrayed as weak, overtly effeminate and used mostly as comic relief in films thus successfully reinforcing popular and damaging stereotypes. I have personally witnessed college kids torment a classmate who is not into girls or does not invest into building a macho image. We all watch people being teased or left out but how many of us speak up? I grew up in this very society and yet when I see a gay couple, I see a couple. When I see homophobia, I see irrationality driven by fear of the unknown.

When I first read about this case, I desperately hoped that the story would be about how AMU stood by their professor and how the police immediately were on the case, looking for the people who had violated Dr.Siras's privacy. I set myself up for disappointment. In my mind, academia and media are the the outer, growing fringe of our society's thought map defining how progressive we are as a populace, they make up the forward moving wave on which intellectuals ride out and set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd. In this case, it was television reporters who allegedly filmed a man having sexual relations within the confines of his own home and then a university condoned this by castigating the professor because the form of sex he was having was not appealing to them. When media and academia promote regressive thinking it comes as more of a shock than it would have if it were say a political party doing it to pander to voters or a religious group looking to recruit. This sort of thing could happen to any of us. Even if you, my reader, may not be a homosexual, I am pretty sure you do things in your own home that you would not want media filming and showing to your employers, right? I guess 15th August is just a public holiday then.

History is witness that it takes times like these to brew a revolution. It takes nerve to side with the right kind of morality, the one that does not pause in doubt and morph into something unrecognizable when overcome with prejudice, intolerance or fear. In my opinion, the LGBT community in India needs to empower themselves and be more vocal. A lot of homosexual individuals do not make their presence known. They prefer to lead privately gay lives often offering up the understandable explanation of "My sex life is nobody's business". Sure. And this attitude may afford them a relatively drama free life, but as a community it will not bring them to the status of equal citizens with equal treatment unless they come forward and fight for it. Today in the face of this scandal, Dr.Siras according to a news report is voluntarily leaving the university. There are so many gay individuals who avoid a scandal and walk away from the mess, not demanding their rights or questioning the raw deal they are dealt.

Last year, Chief Justices Shah and Muralidhar made me proud when they mandated that Section 377 was inapplicable to consenting sex between adults in private. They noted that, “Constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view.” It was a small, yet mighty step in the right direction. And now, a group of idiotic television reporters and the Aligarh Muslim University has brought us a few steps back again.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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