(Re-posting a piece I wrote recently, in the wake of the Supreme Court refusing to review its decision that criminalizes gay sex)
Vikram Seth has spoken eloquently about gay rights; Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have spoken about need to legalize consensual sex among same sex adults, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP’s) Rajnath Singh, not surprisingly, has clarified that homosexuality is unnatural and alien to India’s ethos, culture and society. The TV channels, meanwhile, have devoted prime time debates that have mostly criticized the Supreme Court (SC) upholding Section 377 criminalizing unnatural sex, including between gays.
The debate about gay sex in India exists at multiple levels — legal, personal and social. One big question is whether being a homosexual (and the sexual act implicit) is against the order of nature. Frankly, I am not qualified to speak on the subject. I know how it’s to be a father, son, lover, uncle, husband, spouse and sibling. I have, however, never been attracted to another man.
I can say this for sure. No parent in India or anywhere in the world would want his kid, male or female, to grow up to be gay or lesbian. It is about acceptance and sensitive handling should there be such an eventuality. It can never be a happy situation. Those who accept their kids as gays would be elated should their children revert to being “normal’’ if that is possible, like giving up on drugs or alcoholism or any other addiction.
No doubt, the gay story has been overdone a bit in India. I am fatigued by self-obsessed emotionally wrought cry babies on TV speaking about their sexuality, the men discovering the woman inside them or the women finding the man inside them, or some such permutation. Usually aggressive and sharp anchors such as Barkha Dutt or Karan Thapar are unusually sober when handling a feature on gays. It is almost politically incorrect to be straight.
Real love is about commitment, for example the sacrifice, patience and selflessness in raising a child. Real fortitude is about a woman who gives birth to a baby after bearing her for nine months inside her tummy, distorting her body in the process.
It is true, however, that the SC has erred in re-criminalizing homosexuality as there is strong evidence these sections of our population are victimized and discriminated, with the police, as is usual, playing a dubious role in the matter. Families, friends and neighbors are also perpetrators of violence, including physical.
The BJP, by siding with the SC judgment has not helped its cause as an inclusive party that allows peaceful co-existence of a section of people clearly in a minority. Agendas of development, growth and clean governance need to be accompanied by an evolved liberal social approach to politics that values personal freedoms and choices.
The middle classes and urban centers that are emerging as big supporters of the BJP regard these principles as much as jobs and higher incomes. BJP has failed to realize this. Rajnath Singh, the president of the party, is at the forefront of underlining BJP as conservative, possibly anachronistic party. Earlier, Singh criticized the English language as also alien to Indian culture.
Thankfully, New Delhi, at the instance of Congress party scion Rahul Gandhi, has appealed against the SC judgment. Showing conviction in the matter, the government has correctly initiated quick action on the matter. Section 377 could actually be irrelevant in India should there be higher social acceptability of gays in India and elsewhere.
It should ideally be seen an issue of misplaced emotions, not vaginal versus anal sex which are just means to consummate an already intimate relationship. In India there are laws against everything – honking, littering and even urinating in public.
They are not implemented, rather glossed over. Section 377 also makes unnatural, including oral sex, between heterosexual adults illegal. The cops don’t go around snooping for such eventualities unless there is a specific complaint, mostly women being the victims.
At the same time there are blatant violations of individual liberty, including LGBT’s. Cops prey on young couples in parks accusing them of indecency due to a harsh interpretation of another law that was instituted by our former colonial masters.
Couples in live in relationships need to pretend to be married in order to rent an apartment in Mumbai or Delhi. Police have arrested young people, including girls, for uploading material online that are essentially innocuous. Homosexuality is an evolving theme world over.
It is not considered normal by huge sections of Indian society, unlike in the West. There is a social stigma attached. It will take some time for a predominantly Indian conservative set up, marked by deep caste affinities, to accept such associations as normal or merely aberrant. It should not be illegal for sure. As a personal choice it is best not to be gay, if that is possible.