The Repeal of Section 377 and decriminalization of gay sex

What does this historic verdict say about Independent India?

The basis of the Indian Constitution has always been right to equality of all citizens; which was why section 377 kept sticking out like a sore thumb. Section 377 was first introduced in the year 1861 by the Britishers. In this section, all sexual activities “against the order of nature” were illegal. This meant all consensual relationships between adults, that were not heterosexual, became illegal. So, for years, many sections of the society were clamouring to get this section repealed.

Section 377 remained untouched in the Indian constitution until the year 1987, when two young women who were residing in a village in Madhya Pradesh decided to get married in their village temple. This led to them being assaulted by the local police. Even after receiving threats post this incident, the couple still got married. They even documented their marriage with photographs. These photographs were then circulated in media, and a public discussion on homosexual relationships began for the first time in the new Independent India.[1]

lgbt

Then, in the year 1992, ABVA (Aids Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan) protested for gay rights and reported on how the police mistreated homosexuals. They published their findings in the report titled ‘Less than Gay’.

Finally, in the year 2001 NAZ Foundation, an NGO working for gay rights, AIDS, and HIV, filed a petition to de-criminalize homosexuality. They struggled for eight years and in the year 2009, Delhi High Court ruled in their favour. This victory was short-lived as the supreme court repealed this judgement and homosexuality was again criminalized in India in the year 2013. By this time, due to social media and the interest of mass media, awareness of the issue had reached the masses and many known faces, as well as both BJP and congress spokespersons, had publicly supported the LGBT cause. So, in the year 2016, the supreme court finally abolished section 377. When finally, this section was abolished, people from across the country were jubilant and celebrated this change.

Those who supported de-criminalization stated that the right to live with dignity needs to be applicable to all Indians, irrespective of their sexual preferences. As long as the people in question are legally adults and were consenting, the government and the police need to stay away. On the other hand, the people who were not in support stated that this would ruin Indian culture, would impact the existing structure of marriage, is against their religious beliefs, and would increase AIDS.

It is interesting to note here that in India, the presence of the third gender is quite prominent. Often called the Hijras (mostly eunuchs, intersex, or transgenders) in Hindi, the third gender is called upon to bless religious ceremonies. In addition to this, the concept of gender fluidity is quite prominent in many Hindu Texts including the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Even Lord Shiva has an avatar of Ardhanari, where Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati are parts of the same body. Kama Sutra has references to homosexuality. To this date, temples like Khajuraho have sculptures depicting various sexualities. So, we can say that ancient India was accepting of LGBT.

377.4

By the time this section was finally abolished, a lot of people who were not in support initially had reconsidered their stance, or at least had become open to discussions. One of the major influences to bring about this change was the portrayal of LGBT characters and storyline in mainstream movies. In the early sixties, where sex was a taboo, homosexuality was non-existent on the silver screen. However, the movies that are currently being produced have a range of LGBT characters. Of course, not all of this representation is for the good of the community. Some still perpetuate stereotypes and use this sexuality as a way to garner cheap laughs, just as we see men cross-dressing in popular TV shows for ‘entertainment’.

On the other hand, movies like Fire, Welcome to Sajjanpur, My brother…Nikhil, Kapoor and Sons, and the more recent, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga are amongst the few movies to take the LGBT community seriously and craft their characters with care and sensitivity. Since many reputed artists are cast in these movies, people are drawn to the theatres. Thus, paving the way for conversations about the LGBT and their issues within families.

Such portrayal of LGBT characters and their acceptance by the public helps many to gain the confidence to come out of the closets and share their experiences. While earlier there was a fear of dismissal, now there is a hope of acceptance. The younger generation who is more prone to social media, sees this conversation happening, and is more likely to be accepting of each other’s sexualities. This openness of society would also help combat issues like HIV and AIDS as people would be more likely to come out and get medical help without shame.

section-377-verdict-indias-finally-on-the-right-side-of-history.jpg

Repealing of Section 377 shows that the rights and freedom that are granted to every citizen of India remains at the core of the Indian constitution. Both the government and the judiciary are committed to the progress of the nation. Since India is a democracy, our path to progress is slow as we have to ensure that everyone is heard. All of us may have different opinions, different preferences, however, in the end, we all want India to progress, and repealing of section 377 shows that we are on the right path.

Reference:
[1]Pushpinder Kaur, Gender, Sexuality and (Be) longing: The Representation of Queer (LGBT) in Hindi Cinema - Amity Journal of Media & Communication Studies (ISSN 2231 –1033)
Advertisements
About Dhwani Swadia 5 Articles
Dhwani is currently a freelance content writer and editor. She usually writes on Feminism, Animal Rights, Books, Food, and Travel. She is usually found with a book in her hand. When she is not reading, she can be found petting animals or planning her next travel.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.