By Pradyut Hande:
For the predominantly optimistic LGBT population of the country, December 11, 2013 turned out to be a “black letter day“. The Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate the ban on gay sex whilst deeming the very act “unnatural” and “illegal” under the provision of the contentious section 377 of the IPC has come as a major blow to the Gay Rights movement in the country. Four years after the Delhi High Court decriminalised the act decried by an archaic law, the Supreme Court’s latest dictate has justifiably stirred up the proverbial hornet’s nest; evoking mixed reactions from myriad quarters.
Let me examine this burning relevant issue through a more discerning lens. For starters, painting one’s personal life on a public canvas is hardly ideal. One’s sexual orientation is an inherently personal facet to his/her personality, which we are in no position to pass judgement on. Thus, the fact that the judiciary deems it fit to “criminalise” or “decriminalise” (take your pick. It’s the Indian Judiciary playing Whimsical Chairs) an act pertaining to the same, defies logic. When there are far more pressing matters of regional, domestic and international significance to address; what will focusing on something of this nature accomplish?
At one level, the Supreme Court’s decision appears highly retrogressive and flies in the face of contemporary wisdom and enlightened intellect. However, at another level, suffice to say; it was merely following the law to the tee. All this has done is to put the “legal ball” right in the Parliament’s court with the onus now on our esteemed policy makers to amend a law drawn up in…wait for it…1860. Why has such a vociferously debated law not been amended yet? Because it’s a lot more convenient to deny the existence of a problem, brush it under the carpet and fervently wish that the public gradually forgets about the same. But alas! The Government ought to realise that that is far from the case now. With the kind of momentum the domestic Gay Rights movement has garnered over the last five years, one was of the opinion that our society was slowly but surely taking assured steps towards the acceptance of something that was considered a societal taboo for so long.
However, all that progress appears to have stalled in the face of this recent development. That is perhaps symptomatic of our thought and action cycle of evolution. One step forward and three steps back. For a pluralistic society that prides itself in walking the tightrope of socio-economic progression, we certainly have a long way to go. The open acceptance of homosexuality by not just the common man, but the polity and judiciary ought to be a step in the right direction. However, that requires more than a massive change in blinkered mindsets across the board. Courage, conviction and sensitisation ought to be the Templars on which we can hope to drive change in this sphere.
While engaging in constructive debate on the subject, a dejected and disillusioned friend of mine stated that India had now lost the right to refer to itself as a “tolerant and pluralistic society“. I don’t believe that to be the case. There is no other country on the planet that remains united in the face of such multifarious diversity. Are we a progressive society though? In many respects, we certainly have traversed a noteworthy way. But as a collective society that strives to bridge the urban-rural, rich-poor, educated-uneducated divide; we are still evolving. Will we ever reconcile ourselves to the existence of homosexuality in our society? The optimist in me and the country’s LGBT population would in unison hope that is actually the case. But for now; we must make our displeasure apparent, channel our anger down constructive avenues and strive to uphold a basic human right.
Ladies and Gentlemen, homosexuality is not a crime. But clamping down on the freedom to choose one’s sexual partner; behind the veil of a proverbially antediluvian law most certainly is.