"Homosexuality is found in over 450 species; homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?"
Today is a sad day for our democracy. Supreme Court’s verdict re-criminalizing gay sex is a regressive step that takes us back to the middle ages. We as citizens of this country should be outraged at this act of backwardness as it takes away the basic fundamental right of equality from our gay brethren. It tells them, in no unclear words: “You who are “the others”, stop crying for your “so called rights”; what you do in your private lives is not acceptable in our country; it is immoral and “unnatural”; you people may already be facing immense pressure from the society around you, from your parents and friends, but you do not deserve to be treated equally too. You are criminals!”
The SC verdict has taken retrograde steps and punishes carnal intercourse “against the order of nature”. Now I want to ask, how is being a gay against the order of nature when nature itself makes them that way? There is a play of words which I expected SC to see through. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is an archaic provision introduced by the British, and has been repealed in Britain itself over 50 years ago. This year England legalized same sex marriage and the first such marriage will take place in March 2014. Same-sex marriage is recognised in the Britain, Uruguay, New Zealand, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Portugal, France, Brazil Belgium, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Why are we reinforcing our “backward” image when we should be looking forward? Do we not want to come out as a champion of rights of minorities? Do we not take pride in being the land where a huge variety of minorities are able to live proudly? Why are we shaming ourselves this way?
According to Amnesty International, “the criminalization of people based on their sexual orientation contravenes international and regional human rights treaties. Such systematic discrimination reinforces the disadvantages experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and can be used as justification for violence against them, whether on the street, at home, or in prison.” And this is what is going to happen because of this decision. For fear of persecution by the police forces, a large number of teenagers who would be growing up in the strange world, coming to terms with their homosexuality, would cower with fear to tell even their friends about it, let alone their parents. The parents who already know about their children will absolutely prohibit them to come out of the closet to anyone, and might even force them to marry “naturally”, wrecking not just one, but two lives, not to mention the fact that they themselves will never be able to live happily with the guilt of destroying the life of their child.
The Supreme Court’s verdict has, in essence, observed that there is no reason to believe that Section 377 is unconstitutional, upended the Delhi High Court’s 2009 verdict, and says that it is up to the Parliament to legislate and amend the Section 377. What it did not foresee is the medical repercussion of this pronouncement. It will deal a death blow to AIDS victims who are gays (which are a high percentage) as they can no longer have access to medical care. We are the world leader in AIDS, and it seems we do not want to leave the dubious position. The biggest problem with this verdict is that politicians won’t go out of their way to change this obsolete article as there are still many people who live in the middle ages and believe that it is unnatural to be attracted to the same sex. What they refuse to acknowledge is that there are many such “unnatural” people living amongst us right now, many could be people we are well acquainted with, or may be our friends or brothers who have been trying to come out of their repression, wanting to have a supporting friend listen to their troubles; they are beset with gay jokes all around them with no one to understand their plight, no one willing to discuss this issue out in the open; they cannot tell their friends for fear of being made a social outcast, they cannot tell their parents for fear that they might disown them (yes, many such cases exist out there), and now we have topped it with making them criminals in the eyes of the law.
Question is how do we move from here? One way in which we can contribute to this cause is to remove the taboo from gay. How many of us have had discussions with our friends about the hardships faced by members of the LGBT community and the rights that they deserve as equal citizens of this country? Or is it there a certain taboo, a hesitation on our part to breach the topic? Precisely this is what epitomises the problem with this nation. We do not discuss it openly enough. Talk about straight sex itself is not encouraged in our society, when we are the ones who produced Kamasutra. We are told to be all hush-hush about sexual matters and problems when we don’t mind openly praying to phallic symbols among our gods like Shiva’s lingam. We don’t want to impart sex education to our children when people in our society are repressed enough to skyrocket sexual crimes. Why this hypocrisy? When will we finally stop preaching our own version of morality and accept ourselves for who we are. We are more modern than we want to believe, more western, so to say, than we give ourselves credit for. It’s time to open our eyes to this fact of life and stop living the lie.
The politicians won’t move on this as long as it remains a minority issue. The only way we can make a contribution to this cause is to make this a majority issue by supporting our gay brethren. If we, the social community, do not make enough noise about it, the issue will die down. Public fickleness has let many important causes die down. We only wake up from our slumber of apathy when the earth from under our feet starts shaking, like it did in Nirbhaya case. Well guess what – the earth from under the feet of these poor souls is already shaking, and shaking badly, when their only fault is having been born as “the other”! The ball is not in the court of the Parliamentarians. It’s in our court, the civil society and the online community, and it's up to us to make a majority issue out of it!