When I was growing up, the term ‘gay’ or ‘pansy’ was loosely used to tease boys who displayed any form of sensitivity; boys who couldn’t act fast enough to dissociate themselves with the term, as if it were an insult. I finally learnt what ‘gay’ meant when I was about fifteen years old and my first reaction was one of shock and revulsion. There were no gay couples in the books I had read or on television those days, and oblique references placed them in comedic roles, playing effeminate men who were mocked. Gay sex sounded more kinky and experimental than anything else, not to be taken seriously.
I held this opinion for a few years until one day, forced to miss college because I was unwell, I turned on the television and stumbled upon a relatively new phenomenon in India – the talk show. The host was discussing homosexuality, and there was a mix of homophobic people and proponents of gay rights in the audience. The show proved to be an eye-opener for me, and my narrow and misguided views on homosexuality underwent a sea-change. Even now, I am not proud of my earlier attitude, but cut myself some slack. I had, after all, been just a teenager then, and my initial opinions had been shaped by limited information garnered from media snippets. Now, when I come across homophobia amongst educated adults who should know better, it never fails to baffle me. Why would someone have this hatred towards something that doesn’t even affect them?
Love has many forms — love between a parent and child, between husband and wife, between friends, between siblings, and between persons of the same sex. Love in every form should be celebrated, not reviled. What should be reviled instead is prejudice, racism, theft, murder, rape, abuse… Let us not needlessly add to that list.
Why is Sec 377 still an issue? Any law that takes away an adult’s freedom to love a person of his or her choice is a violation of our fundamental rights, and hence unconstitutional. The High Court realised this when it scrapped Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex, but this was overturned by the Supreme Court. It determined that any decision to scrap a law can only be taken by the Parliament. It is about time the Parliament legalises gay sex, shuts down this archaic law, and the matter is laid to rest. (Preferably in a grave, that reads RIP, Section 377.)
Being gay is no crime. By its very definition, a crime is something that harms another. A sexual act that takes place between two consenting adults, not married to anyone else, harms no one, and there is no justification for deeming it illegal.
However religious groups and the homophobic are up in arms against the scrapping of the controversial section. Do their arguments really hold water? Here are some of the points they make…
Homosexuality is unnatural
Homosexuality is found in the animal kingdom, amongst sheep. Bisexuality has been found in over 1,500 species. So yes, same-sex activity is natural, and the fact that it has been found amongst animals blows this reasoning out of the ramshackle window it crawled in through.
Gays cannot procreate
Which is great for population control! Those who think the sole purpose of humanity (or of any sexual act) is procreation, should think again.
Gays are a threat to society
The gay community in every country is creative and vibrant. Some of our best playwrights, actors, directors, writers, artists, people who have given us wonderful art in every form, have been gay. If you love their art, their movies, their music, learn to respect their personal choices.
Homosexuality is against our culture
Homosexuality has in fact been a part of Indian history through the centuries, and ancient Indian miniatures, sculptures at temples like those at Khajuraho, serve as proof. Scholars believe the term vikriti evam prakriti (what seems unnatural can also be natural) in the Rig veda, refers to homosexuality. Indian mythology is also replete with stories showing the fluidity of gender, where men turn into women and vice-versa, in addition to references to homosexual and lesbian intercourse.
Then don’t do it! To each his own. And don’t forget, what may be natural to you may sound gross to homosexuals, so why expect them to go down this path?
We need to protect the institution of marriage
Societal pressure that forces men and women to hide their real sexual orientation through straight marriages makes more of a mockery of the institution of marriage than same-sex marriages would. Infidelity, marital rape, abuse, dowry, violence — these are what go against the notion of marriage. Love is in fact the foundation every marriage should be built on, but legalising gay marriages is a hurdle that can only be crossed once gay sex is decriminalised. Let’s hope that happens soon.
In this battle between hate and love, let’s hope love wins.
This article was published in The Hindu, Open Page, on April 23, 2017.