Professor Siras Case and Gay Rights

Last July there was an unprecedented celebration of the Delhi High Court’s historical verdict on ‘gay sex’, yet everybody knew well that GTBT ghettos’ march to real rights was actually rather long, clearly seeming several decades away. The reason: court rulings seldom alter the way society looks at ‘taboos’. Now less than a year later, with alleged suicide of Aligarh Muslim University’s ‘gay professor’ Srinivas Ramchander Siras, it turns out that judiciary can but not metamorphose the outlook of even law-bound institutions, let alone that of public at large.

Professor Siras case has two very conspicuously weird points, that it was a ‘sting operation’ that exposed his sexual orientation, a kind of operation that cannot be said to be even remotely aimed at unearthing ‘forced gay sex’ (professor’s partner, a rickshaw puller, was allegedly paid for the job, though, a case of male prostitution) and that varsity administration put him under suspension at light’s speed, for being ‘homosexual’, a rule no institutional rule book is supposed to have, particularly after decriminalization of gay sex.

Keeping in mind that many big media houses of the country have run campaign for GTBT rights, a purposeless sting operation that divulged nothing beyond sexual orientation of a university teacher and his pursuance of this by allegedly paying someone (that was known later), is shameful. Gay rights and male prostitution is still in process of debate and so not a fit case for sting operations at any rate. Even those fellows in media who advocate against homosexuality will outrightly disapprove of this mentality, of cashing on very sensitive socially debated topics, which grips certain sections of the profession.

That Professor Siras was badly harassed by varsity administration, as teachers’ association claims, for merely being gay is beginning to seem a bonafide charge in spite of all the clarifications of authorities, for a single reason that he was not only suspended for homosexuality rather than ‘forced gay sex’, but the action was taken without necessary official inquiry, exclusively on the ground of sting operation. What followed later provides further strength to the allegation. Varsity didn’t act on the repeal of his suspension by Allahabad High Court on his plea, readying his reinstatement order in hurry-scurry only after news of his suicide spread like wildfire.

The manner in which local media and university administration – the institutions having higher responsibilities than many others – acted in the case show the actual measure of society’s misplaced opinion of homosexuality, which seems rooted to a degree that even higher institutions like these are in its fast grip. Despite decriminalization of gay sex, we can no longer deny that any one, if he dares to declare his homosexuality at workplace, will immediately be booted out, particularly in private jobs where there’s less security.

That said, let me focus on myths and misconceptions about gay sex and its decriminalization that have been gaining strength lately. Of the two public opinions acting against GTBT, one is based on the society’s obsession to deal with anything pertaining to sexuality with fear and confusion and disdain, and considering any deviation from normal sexuality as immoral; and the other is grounded on the proposition that homosexuality may be acceptable but not its campaign in public. None of the two is common-sensical.

Myths and misconceptions prevalent today, giving birth to fears and confusion, are because of lack of knowledge; and fair amount of campaign is needed to knock them down. People regarded AIDS as a contagious disease until TV campaigns were launched to enlighten the masses that despite being fatal, it’s a disease like any other, requiring people’s support, not disdain. If public perception of homosexuality is to be improved and people made aware of the 1973 medical study that gay are as normal as homosexuals and not a category of maniacs, campaigns and rallies may be needed, much to the disappointment of those who consider pride parade and slogans like ‘I’m proud to be gay’ as undesirable glorification of homosexuality, asking – though homosexuality is not a crime, is it really something to be proud of, or, something to be glorified like this?

The point is valid until we take into account that people have perpetually disdained GTBTs for their sexuality, hurting their pride and armouring them with a solid reason to reclaim and reassert their lost pride, through rallies and slogans alike. Though demonstrations like this may not be desirable, expecting GTBTs not to do so is not a proper response to the problem. Till society realizes that gay existed at the beginning of civilization and will survive till its end and can peacefully and perfectly co-exist with heterosexuals, things are not likely to change for good.

The other significant contention against acceptance or public expression of gay sex is that it may leave young generation convinced that homosexuality is a nice thing and can be indulged in, thus encourage formation of large group of homosexuals. It’s ridiculous. Any sexual behaviour – homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual etc – is purely biological, that is, a homosexual has natural tendency to be attracted to same sex, a bisexual to both and a heterosexual to opposite. Social acceptance of gay sex is not a kind of impulse that can enhance sexuality even among homosexuals, let alone converting a heterosexual to homo or bisexuality.

That prostitution prevalent since inception of civilization and porn invented by science and technology have indeed affected heterosexuals (who are biologically responsive to them) but not led to a sexual anarchy, further proves that all the fears regarding gay sex are unfounded.

Professor Siras case has brought male prostitution back into the focus, with some people arguing against abolition of Section 377 on the ground that scarcely have two adults pursuing gay sex on mutual consent been arrested or tortured by police, so why rescind it, why not keep it to check male prostitution and paedophile?

Well, male prostitution in fact falls within the gambit of prostitution, not gay sex. A proper legal stand on the matter should be exactly like one on female prostitution, that is to say, it may be permissible but cannot be commercialized and institutionalized. Just as there’s argument to allow professional prostitutes and call girls but not a whorehouse or sex-racket, by the same token, male prostitution could be allowed in the case of gay sex but not their institutionalization.

As with any issue of this sensitivity, the bigger problem with gay rights is political silence and inertness. The entire political class has avoided taking a stand on the topic fearing loss of votes. No social change or fight against taboo is possible without participation of political system in it.

Saurabh Dharmesh