Homosexuality. The word itself makes the average Indian recoil in embarrassment. And if you pursue the subject, you may hear phrases, like ‘it’s against the law of nature’ or ‘how can people be that way’ muttered, sotto voce. And then the topic will be hastily changed. This is a common scenario, not only in India, but in other countries as well. The only difference is that while most countries have accepted this fact, India refuses to recognize that putting curbs on an adult’s right to choose his/her partner (regardless of gender) is equivalent to infringing on the Fundamental Right to Freedom.
It is a common misconception that the concept of homosexuality was given to India by the West. There is evidence that homosexuality was a commonplace and accepted fact in Ancient India (Khajurao and Kamasutra have references to homosexuality). In fact, it was the suppression of sexuality, be it hetero or homo, which is our inheritance from the West.
The Indian Penal Code was framed in 1860, influenced by the Victorian age in Britain. At that time, sexuality was treated like a pathological urge and hence, it was hard to imagine two people in a homosexual relationship. So, homosexuality was classified under a heinous crime which was against the law of nature. This perception has been strengthened over time in our patriarchal society, which assigns roles to genders and limits the expression of individuals.
While Britain and other countries have done away with their negative laws and perceptions about homosexuality being a psychological disease or an unnatural state against the will of God, India is still steeped in suppressive norms. Just because attraction towards the same sex is not something which majority of the world feels, it is considered wrong. In fact, even heterosexuality is not something that is acknowledged without marriage and even after marriage, sex is seen to be a means for procreation, a duty which will help the couple to perform the necessary religious ceremonies according to societal requirements.
With this it is clear why so many homosexuals are afraid to come out of the proverbial closet. What everyone should understand is that homosexuality is not a ‘condition’ which must be or can be ‘cured’. A person may prefer to be with a partner of the same sex because of reasons which are still not clear. A person may be born gay or may become gay because of some childhood experience. The bottom-line is that convincing them to change themselves is as bad as asking a heterosexual to marry someone from the same sex.
It is not just about the physical relationship, but also the love, affection and loyalty between same-sex couples that should be acknowledged at par with that of heterosexual couples, by giving them legal right to marry and also the benefits of adoption, tax and inheritance, that they are currently being denied.
Change is difficult, but societal norms should not be accepted at face value if they are resulting in the unhappiness of so many individuals. Think of where we would all be, if practices like sati, infanticide and child marriage were allowed to be practiced legally even today. So it is time to reconsider the rights of same sex couples, who have every right to acceptance, prosperity and happiness in their relationships, as others have in theirs today.
[Image source: http://catholicevents.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/homosexuality-forum.jpg]