The world is changing. When will we?

Gays in India

by Perin Ilavia

The World is Changing

When will we?

If you’re gay, price are you a criminal? Because you’ve made love to a consenting adult?

In India, the answer is yes. And let’s face it, this law is ludicrous.

We now know through science and empirical research that people do not choose to be homosexual. We are born gay, straight or something in between. Therefore, outlawing homosexuality is akin to making it illegal to have been born.

Unfortunately, here in India we’re not arguing about whether the government should recognize gay marriage, the main debate in much of the world these days. We’re still discussing whether it’s OK to BE gay – something we should be well past by now.

Last year, the Indian Supreme Court overturned a Delhi High Court judgment decriminalizing homosexual acts, saying Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary. This Section 377 dates back to 1861; it criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexual acts.

So our Supreme Court has now ruled that if homosexuality and bisexuality are to be considered “natural”, Parliament will have to amend the law.

Those who think homosexuality is a modern phenomenon or an import from Western countries need to know that the first record of homosexuality in history are Kynumhotep and Niankhkhnum – an
Egyptian couple.

Homosexuality has been written about in the Kama Sutra, recorded since approximately 600 BC in China, Greek mythology, Mayans, Aztecs, Islamic Era and Latin American civilizations. Primates and other animals, birds, fish, even gut worms can be homosexual. Musicians, actors, artists, dancers, fashion designers, white collar professionals, are law-abiding and homosexual. Edward III, Socrates and Lord Byron were gay.

In India, homosexuality and group sex was practiced among the tribals. The ‘shamans’, tribal priests revered as having extraordinary powers, had sex with men.

India has gay magazines, gay clubs, websites, parades, but the reaction in conservative Indian society to same sex relationships is, ‘stay away, they are unnatural’. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. There is no evidence to support theories attributing sexual orientation to family dysfunction, trauma or inherent psychopathology. Gays are normal people, good looking, intelligent, creative, sensitive, committed to their partners and friends. Many fear aging and their partner looking for a younger man or woman.

The anti-gay ruling in India corresponded with similar homophobic moves in Russia and several African countries. And it came at a time when many countries around the world, especially the United States, are undergoing a sea change when it comes to attitudes about gays. Many societies have moved to legalize gay marriage, athletes and performers are increasingly ‘coming out’, and acceptance by mainstream society is becoming the norm.

“People deserve to live in freedom of equality, and should not fear violence or discrimination for who they are, and who they love,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said recently in response to a move by Nigeria mandating 14-year prison sentences to gays who attempted to marry.

The Netherlands has approximately 16,000 same sex married couples, the highest in the European Union. After stiff opposition, Queen Elizabeth cleared the way for same sex marriage in the UK. Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal, Argentina, France, Brazil, have legalized same-sex marriage, as have many U.S. states.

In an effort to abolish sexual discrimination, Nepal established a committee that studied the laws across the world in 2007. The South Asian country is now a happy haven and honeymoon destination for sexual minorities. Sunil Pant was Nepal’s first gay M P. All that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to be gay in Nepal, especially for lesbians who often struggle against patriarchal attitudes and such issues as forced marriage.

The Vatican has always disfavored homosexuality. Pope Francis has not moved away from that position, despite having refocused the church’s priorities away from divisive social issues and toward helping the poor.

In 2013 the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans (LGBT) and Intersexual Association listed about 80 countries that ban gays.

All this homophobia, of course, hasn’t stopped our own state of Goa from attracting a good number of LGBT’s. Goa has long been a favourite get-away for a holiday or honeymoon for this community. The first publicly declared gay wedding in Goa sent shock-waves among conservatives, not only in Goa, but around the country. Many commended fashion designer Wendell Rodrick’s decision to be open about his identity and marry his partner.

Few think anyone will actually be able to enforce India’s ban on homosexuality. However, the latest Supreme Court ruling can easily lead to increased harassment of gays by police and others. It’s a terrible set-back to the work of activists who dread the ammunition it provides to homophobes. The outdated law encourages discrimination in housing, education and employment. Not to mention how gays and their families feel about being considered ‘criminals’ in the eyes of the law.

 

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