How is it ‘against the order of nature’ for two people of the same gender to have sex if they naturally feel inclined to do so and to enjoy it?
Or are we to believe that the ‘order of nature’ permits only reproductive sex? And that orgasms are cultural impositions of the godless and imperial West? (Who have, by the way, moved on from this regressive dogma while politicians and religious figures in India bring their unmistakably indigenous homophobia to defend a law that we inherited from our colonial masters)
In that case, has the Supreme Court reinstated a ban on ALL recreational sex. Congratulations Supreme Court, you’ve out-homophobed the Vatican this year.
The ball is no longer in the Supreme Court; it is now the prerogative of Parliament to amend section 377 of the constitution. The happiness and dignity of millions of Indians is now susceptible to the tyranny of the majority- a majority that for decades, centuries, and millennia has marginalized, dehumanised, castigated, and alienated people for their private choices. It ought not to surprise us that the places in the world that are worst for women, are also the ones that are worst for gay people to live. Homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny are inextricably linked in that they all stem from the regressive notion that individuals must be essentialised to the confines of their biology. The traditionally entrenched and religiously reinforced gender norms and familial structures have mutated into law in many countries hence perpetuating stereotypes of gender and sexuality.
The way to change the Supreme Court’s verdict on this matter is to file a review petition on the judgement followed by a curative petition. That is undoubtedly being done and will undoubtedly lead to brighter days for all of us who believe that loves trumps hate. But the deference of this matter to Parliament by justices Singhvi and Mukhyopadhaya forces us to think beyond the law. The fact that this issue is a political non-starter in India is indicative of the ignorance, apathy, intolerance, and in some cases, sheer contempt the Indian people have for those who think, dress, live, and love differently. The fact that political will for this issue is absent and that we have to resort to normative judgements by courts is a problem in and of itself.
In the words of Prince Manvinder Singh Goyal “Gay rights is an issue that cannot be won in court but only in the hearts and minds of people.” This implies that regardless of what the letter of the law says, true equality can only be attained when the interests of individuals are treated with respect by people all around.
Why is it then, that it cannot be considered a private issue? Why does the right to hate precede the right to love? Why do we live in a country where consensual gay sex is a crime but marital rape is not?
As I’ve mentioned before, I think the foundations for this hatred are rooted early in the lives of people. Segregating girls and boys from a very young age, and insisting that their school uniforms, their public and private conduct, their domestic, professional, academic, athletic, and artistic aspirations must rigidly be either male or female fosters a disdain for anything in between. Being a cisgender homosexual or a transgender person of any sexuality is therefore seen as disparate with the paradigm that we’re all apparently supposed to subscribe to and succeed within, thus casting these people as biological, psychological, social, and moral anomalies.
This gulf is deepened by our popular culture that has a history of depicting gay characters and trans people as social deviants and chhakkas, often shamelessly equating the two.
But another anomaly that is worth noting is that regarding sex and sexuality. Refusing to view sexuality as just another human attribute, like intellect, or artistic ability, or athletic ability, but insisting that it is somehow a taboo or peculiar characteristic singles it out as something that may be used to categorise or define people. The misconception that sexuality is the first and foremost characteristic of sexual minorities leads to all the stereotypes that society has about LGBTQ people- that they’re promiscuous, that they’re obsessed with publicly brandishing their sexuality, that everything about them is different because how or with whom they like to do it (not that any of these are bad things, its just that they’re not entirely true). This leads to skepticism among mainstream society of sexual minorities that is further fomented by disingenuous claims that the disease of homosexuality is to blame for diseases like HIV/AIDS and other STDs.
If we ever aspire to live in an India that doesn’t tolerate intolerance, the next generation is our only hope, and we have to sensitise it to this issue, before it slips into the future to perpetuate this vile dogma further.
One of the things that is sure to have a powerful, albeit indirect effect is the abolition of gender categorisation. There’s nothing wrong for a woman to do what is considered traditionally male, or vice versa, there ought not to be anything wrong for a biological woman or man to view themselves as something in between, whatever that may be. The unapologetic ostracisation of eunuchs is a norm in this country and often a matter of mirth and humour for several people. Including them in mainstream life is vital in bringing about an end to what many people don’t even see as gender discrimination. Organisations like Salvation of Oppressed Eunuchs does a great job and has been fighting for their rights for quite a while, but a lot more needs to be done. Having only male and female gender categories relegates people of alternative genders to a life of secondary citizenship. It then becomes very easy to intimidate or insult cisgender homosexuals by calling them eunuchs. Empathy for people who are presently on the outermost fringes of our society will inculcate a mature compassion for everyone encircled within. Adding such awareness and sensitization to the already present ‘Moral Values’ education can have a real impact as opposed to teaching children fables where animals represent human interests that conform to the very status quo that we’re trying to break.
Focusing on sex in the correct manner is also vital, as I have already mentioned here- (https://firebreathingfeminist.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/depraved-and-deprived-the-story-we-need-to-change/). Bursting the myths about HIV/AIDS, sexual deviance, and promiscuity can cleanse people’s minds off the contempt they feel for ‘unnatural’ sex.
Bollywood stars and pop culture figures have come out in support of the LGBTQ community- definitely a good sign, but an avenue that has much greater potential once we reach the tipping point where viewers are no longer tolerant of derragatory and flippant depictions of sexual minorities.
Legal change is likely to come quicker than social change, with the review and curative petitions against this verdict almost certain to be made. But change is coming, make no mistake about that. With politicians like Brinda Karat and Derek O’Brien opposing today’s verdict, and thousands of people on the streets representing a proliferation of the awareness of the movement in India, more and more people are likely to discover sooner rather than later that they’re on the wrong side of history in this regard.
Homosexulaity is not a disease but love is certainly infectious. Today might have been a dull and gloomy day for gay rights in India, but we’ll be riding rainbows soon.