Just a Way of Life

Homosexuality is a criminal offence under Section 377 on the Indian Penal Code currently and can result in imprisonment. Before we can hope for a legalization of homosexuality, this outdated law should be repealed. When the Naz Foundation challenged this law in the Supreme Court two years back the government declared “Public morality must prevail over the exercise of any private right”. This statement brings us to the core of the issue, morality or to be more precise “public morality”.

While I agree with the government partly that public should be given preference over individuals, it does not entail the public thrusting their way of life on individuals. I don’t think being gay or lesbian is a crime! Why then are they not allowed to live the way they want to? Only because their way of life challenges or is different from the rest of us. We proudly wear our secular credentials and proclaim about India’s diversity but when it comes to accepting a distinct sexual preference we hurriedly look away.

Sex and everything to do with it is taboo till today in our country. A close instance is that of sex education which is conveniently left off from a growing child’s learning chart. In school, one is taught curriculum and at home one learns values, culture and traditions. The problem lies in the way sex is looked upon by the society, more like a carnal lust than a normal physical desire. Similarly homosexuality too is seen as aberration, and thus is unacceptable. Legalizing homosexuality will be the first step towards recognition of the same, more than anything else. Apart from of course acknowledging a way of being, it will also give the right to a whole section of people to exist in the manner they wish to. It surely will open a can worms but I think the time is right for such a law as the Indian society is in the throes of change. The media too has a hand to play in spreading awareness about this issue. One of the impediments, however, is the stereotypical representations of gays and lesbians. Most shows or films present them as bizarre figures reducing them to objects of ridicule. Unless this false representation stops, homosexuals will continue to lead a sub human level of existence. Another pressing concern is that this law increases the difficulty in HIV prevention, making AIDS a growing threat.

Let us now go into how if such a law is passed would be received by the public. Outfits like VHP and Shiv Sena would go on a rampage proclaiming how this law is a threat to Indian culture and against its values. Joint families watching television together will change the channel covering this story. Page 3 regulars would have a bash, another reason to celebrate you see. Most of rural India would go on with their lives untouched and probably unaware of this. However for many life “will” change, and they are homosexuals. For them it would be a declaration of their fundamental rights. Life will still be a struggle for them and no law can curtail the ill-treatment which the society inflicts and will do even after a legal sanction. I do not mean to sound pessimistic but accepting the reality only gives the required courage to fight for what is fair.

Niha Masih

[Image Source: http://flickr.com/photos/leoprieto/634607326/]