Politicians have never been kind to homosexuality. Not that the society in general and our religious and cultural leaders have been kinder. Known and active politicians like Subramanium Swamy, Yogi Adityanath, Gulam Nabi Azad, Rajnath Singh, Lalu prasad Yadav, have called it unnatural, and a mental disease with a ‘need for psychological treatment’, have emphasized that ‘gay sex should not be legalised at any cost’ and even suggested setting up ‘centers to administer treatment to the LGBT youths to make them normal’. Even Sushma Swaraj has remarked that ‘surrogacy for homosexual couples is against our cultural ethos’. So the path from being classified as a socially immoral act to being decriminalised by the courts hasn’t been a cake-walk. Along with all this we have had people like Laxmi Narayan Tripathy, Vikram Seth, Gauri Samant, Ashok Row Kavi, and many more take the fight from hushed debates to open forums.
Now that the Supreme court verdict is out, we know that IPC Section 377 has been decriminalised. However, LGBTQ or the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community is still far from being free to decide its choice of sexual orientation. The statistics on the number of gays in our country is said to be more than 2.5 million, according to the documents submitted by the government of India in 2012. These are obviously indicative of only those numbers that have been self-declared and are probably only like the proverbial tip of an iceberg. The good news is there are more and more services now such as hrt for transgender to cater the necessities of our trans individuals.
If one goes by the kind of messages going around on whatsapp, there are hordes of people expressing their doubts about the freedom granted to the LGBTQ community. These questions range from the validity of a male mother lacking the tender care that a female is capable of giving to ‘unholy urges’ now being encouraged by the lawmakers to bring on tsunamis of sexual greed and emotional trauma. There are a number of doubters who talk about why a violation of natural law can shatter social peace and be unsustainable in the long term. Not that these questions were not raised earlier… the new law is all about an effective answer to any sort of doubts that people may still harbor. People who support the LGBTQ+ can make a stand and show their acceptance of the community by wearing something like an aromantic flag as accessories.
The decriminalization of Section 377 is simply a battle that has been won. The war is still on. To my mind, amendments in laws must always be a front-runner when any social change is sought. When we talk of gay sex, we must understand that gays are not a new phenomenon. They have always been there. Even in ancient India. The Wikipedia mentions that in ancient India, ‘sex between non-virgin women incurred a very small fine, while homosexual intercourse between men was sought to be censured by a prescription of a bath with one’s clothes on, and a penance of “eating the five products of the cow and keeping a one-night fast” – the penance being a replacement of the traditional concept of homosexual intercourse resulting in a loss of caste.’ In pre-modern India we have a mention of ‘the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, mandating a common set of punishments for Zina (unlawful intercourse)’. The British Raj ‘criminalised sexual activities “against the order of nature”, arguably including homosexual sexual activities, under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which entered into force in 1861.’ Such laws are there in almost all cultures all over the world and many other countries have already taken action to bring the LGBTQ community into the mainstream.
Why do I say that the war is still on?
Last week I was discussing technology innovations with a couple of senior executives and I happened to ask why Tim Cook was pained to discover that his predecessor Steve Jobs was a gay. (J Stephen Sadler, a personalities specialist, says on Quora: ‘Although there is no evidence that Steve Jobs was gay, he was known as a free spirit, willing to experience life to its fullest and could very well have had varied sexual experiences.‘) The section 377 brouhaha was all over the news and there I was hinting at the aesthetic perceptions and tech prowess of a gay! Both these senior managers were unequivocally against legitimizing gay sex because, according to them, this was all a part of a larger plot to capture the world.
‘What?’ I said, ‘Now this sounds like a new direction for thriller writers.’
They were convinced that the gays were out to becoming the centre of all economic activities and this control over money would ultimately lead to chaos. ‘Homosexuality is an economic disease,’ said one, ‘and decriminalizing Section 377 is only going to intensify an economic war in the future.’ We left the discussion there because I found the discussion not going anywhere as neither had figures and statistics to prove their premise. I am mentioning this discussion here because I want to clarify their stand on homosexuality being a disease. An article published in 2015 in Washington Post mentioned that the American Psychiatric Association concluded way back that ‘homosexuality is not a disease, a disturbance, or a perversion’.
This simply means that all LGBTQ issues still continue to remain in a war-like framework and perceptions take a long time to win over.
Look at the sort of jokes floating around on whatsapp and every other social media platform. Not that there is anything wrong in jokes, but again, we are dealing with an issue that is going to take a long time before jokes cease to be agents of inglorious inception and are perceived as jokes.
One article in The Guardian talked about movies persisting in telling rather than showing a character as a gay. The article also mentioned that gay characters were as capable of solving the world’s problems as any of the straight characters and went on to mention that ‘it might take a while for some audiences to acclimatize but as a gay viewer, I’ve grown used to seeing straight characters save the day.’ The LGBTQ war is going to go on unless our writers, movie makers, artists, and other creative folk begin to make gays and lesbians a normal part of their creations rather than single them out each time with some form of an apologetic fear creeping in.
Must history aplogise?
There are a few who believe that history owes an apology to the LGBTQ community. No, I don’t think an apology is going to make any difference, even if such a thing like making history apologise were possible. You see, in trekking we move forward from one kind of terrain to another without saying that a particular stretch was inhospitable and, therefore, must apologise for being there. One just moves on and probably fondly remembers the struggle that was a part of it all when the summit is reached. This is what human foibles are all about and anyway we are forever hopping from one flaw to another and loving each time we are triumphant. Triumphs would become meaningless if life’s terrain had no chasms and cliffs to conquer.
To say that our religious and political leaders are still making irresponsible statements that go against the spirit of decriminalization of Section 377 will not be accurate because even though some of them may have made disparaging remarks earlier, they are all accepting the court’s verdict. There will always be a few adverse comments popping up now and then but then there will invariably be those who will answer them effectively. As I have said earlier, the war is still on.
Sharing a few pictures that I clicked in 2014 during the ‘Pride of London’ gay parade…
14 September 2018