Truncated Transgression: Homosexuality

The BJP is an openly saffron party, but are the others truly secular? There are different shades of divide in this country besides the omnipresent religious one. The congress too in the past has shown shades of grey during the handling of anti-Sikh riots. The events at Ayodhya too, could have been avoided, which they carefully chose not to. No amount of apology can allow them to wash their hands of their misdeeds.

The recent hearing on the abolition of Section 377 of IPC, dealing with Homosexuality, has really shown how riddled they are with their own ideology. On the one hand they want to keep religion out of governance. On the other hand they quote religion and society ambivalently, as reasons to perpetuate a ban. The home ministry and health ministry are divided from the middle on the issue of accepting homosexuality as legal.

The health ministry in an affidavit has stated the urgent need to get rid of the penal provisions of the section 377. This section has provisions to imprison a person for life in cases of homosexuality. When people call us a third world country, we shouldn’t be too surprised, considering we do have third world laws. It is the law, which makes people think of the act as evil. Once such a law is abandoned with good effect, we shall be on the road to true freedom for sexual minorities. Why do we want to deny them the right to expression of a fundamental human feeling?

The sexual health of minorities is a matter of great concern as it does pose a great threat to the growing AIDS epidemic in India. To top it, when our own government lawyers accuse the community of spreading disease, it doesn’t make things easy. Although we have a virtual policy of don’t ask don’t tell, it is not liberation. An effective AIDS campaign has to run on a fair bit of transparency. In the case of homosexuals, a person will not dare to reveal his sexual partners. The government has virtually disregarded studies by health organizations, incriminated homosexuality as immoral and against Indian culture. In my opinion Indian culture is a culture of inclusiveness and not of exclusion. The home ministry has also led a campaign of misinformation. They say incidences of AIDS are higher in homosexuals; they are relying on propaganda which has been negated decades back. The fact is incidence rate of the disease is the same as with heterosexuals.

They have quoted the Vedas to justify their stand on having the penal provisions of this draconian section. As it stands there is little difference between V.P. Singhal and the congress leadership. After all Mr. Singhal believes that good values (sanskar) will ensure a society cleansed of homosexuality. What amuses me is why he opposes the decriminalization of Homosexuality then.. Wonder what his views are on values being taught to prevent heinous crimes like murder and rape. These crimes I am sure pose a much graver threat than homosexuality, which is an act of cohabitation between consenting adults. Even our history has varied reference to homosexuality; some admonish it and some are fine with it. Although, people quote Manusmriti when they argue against sane thinking, the fact is that it is a stand alone in terms of terming sexual acts of ‘men with men’ an offence. Manusmriti is in fact the same manuscript which glorifies the caste system! Even ancient temple art has reference to homosexuality. The paranoia is a result of pure imperial hangover and nothing else.

The irony of the matter is, even Britain has got rid of such a law, but we still manage to live in with a draconian law which is more than a century old. In fact, even legal unions between homosexuals are recognized by the government of Britain. The government in India, is scared that changing the law will open a Pandora’s Box and would include a multitude of laws which would need to be amended. The laws on sodomy are one of them. The fact is nobody is asking them to remove anti-sodomy laws but amend them. The community has just asked the government to differentiate between forced and consented sex. Forced sodomy is a crime as heinous as rape and must be dealt with the same penal provisions. The laws would have to be amended to suit current needs. The gender neutrality of laws is of utmost importance to the community and people in general.

When our governments or citizens talk about gays having a bad influence on society, they are being unfairly judgmental. It is the liberal world which thinks that the fears or allegations of Bajrang Dal and VHP about Christians starting to threaten the majority’s way of life are a hogwash, then why such a U-turn here. If 3% Christians cannot have threatening effects on 80% Hindus, then how can .7% of the homosexual population population threaten or alter 99.3% of the rest of India? I am sure that a gay person doesn’t carry with him a communicable “disease” that the government of India has labeled homosexuality to be capable of!

Another flawed argument is the one on “the natural order of nature.” Doesn’t a person think that happiness comes first? Not all children are fortunate enough to have parents, so the homosexuals can give them love and affection; and a family which the children deserve. There is no research to prove that they can’t be good parents and provide a stable family. So let us give people their dues. Let us live a life free of fear, fear of things unconventional. The time left with us is worth the while if we are open to evolution in ideologies. We being a democratic and socialist country should look into the welfare of all groups and not let religion govern life in general. We have to separate governance and religion.

Abhik Sen
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