“Assuming you are a straight man, just imagine that you have to be attracted to another man, not because you have feelings for him but just because you have to be. How do you feel? Disgusted or forced? Do you feel annoyed or frustrated? Now imagine that you must pretend to be happy doing this in front of everyone you meet in a day. Don’t you feel like crying?” So said my friend, Arif* when I asked how it feels to be gay in Indian society.
“The struggle is real for us [homosexual couples], when we realize that we cannot hold holds and roam around, or express our love publicly, which is a right enjoyed by most heterosexual couples,” he further lamented.
It was the year 1860 when British India criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexuality. It is infamously known as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). And, even though the British amended this law in 1967 in their own nation, we Indians continue to carry this unfair and grotesque legacy for 70 years now!
Regrettably, we are a part of a society where roles of each gender are predefined. Our social roles are based upon the foundations of the same dichotomy — where you are expected to exhibit some decided characteristics to fit in the designed fabric. The notion of masculinity and femininity in our society is decided by inconsequential choices like whether you like pink or blue, whether you like playing with Barbie or you like cars. There are set of rules you are supposed to follow and certain ‘choices’ you are supposed to make, failing which you would render yourself to be called as “unnatural”.
The most ridiculous thing about this dreadful section of IPC is the arguments given to defend this. Our religious leaders and political netas who claim to be our “samaj ke thekedar”, who almost never agree on any issue, thoughtlessly stand united for this regressive law. Either they do not understand this issue or their homophobia doesn’t let them.
Their arguments only reflect the lack of understanding on this issue. I came across many of them. One of them was that homosexuality is against procreation, as the sole purpose of peno-vaginal intercourse is the creation of life. Now, for those who put up such arguments, I’d like to ask them some questions. If the sole purpose of having sex is to create babies, then why allow infertile people to have sex? Why use any contraceptive methods as they prevent reproduction? Why allow any couple to have sex after the woman reaches her menopause. or a man who loses his sperm count? And most importantly, after a couple has had the desired number of kids, why allow them to have sex for the rest of their lives? There are no answers to such questions, as they are as illogical as the argument itself.
Another arument given by such moral policemen is that any intercourse other than vaginal intercourse is against the course of our nature. Now, can anyone tell me the book they are referring to when preaching such laws and principles to us? Why should I believe your opinion about nature as a gospel truth? Those who say that the desire to have sex with the same gender is a mental disorder should refer to the World Health Organization (WHO), which removed homosexuality from a list of mental disorders, way back in 1990. So, those who even now call it a mental disorder should either cite some solid evidence, or should rather stop passing such absurd statements.
Many argue that the reason for not decriminalizing the British-imposed Section 377 is that homosexual activities have never been a part of our so called ‘sanskari’ and ‘swachch’ Indian culture. Possibly, they are oblivious of our actual culture, where homosexuality has been accepted, effortlessly. Temples and scriptures built roughly between the 12th and 14th century depict homosexuality as a part of a normal discourse.
All arguments and counter-arguments apart, the act of having sex, consensually, is a matter of human rights. How do two people having sex in private, with mutual consent, wreak havoc on our nature? How does it matter for other people to worry about what and how two people are going to share their intimate feelings within four walls?
What my friend Arif said, raises a very important point. If such absurd laws are left continuing in our system, they are nothing but a tool for other people to bully homosexual couples, because no one is ever going to check how heterosexual couples are having sex – anal or oral or vaginal. But whenever a homosexual couple is spotted, it is almost assumed that the couple is violating Section 377. Social stigma and shaming further force such people to suppress their desire, which reflects more prominently when one is ‘forced’ to maintain relations with an un-desired partner. This ‘forcing’ is not just unfair for a person but for their entire family, and especially their partner who probably expects some amount of intimacy and passion in the relationship.
It is time for us to say goodbye to this two-century old draconian law which mercilessly snatches away the human right to live with dignity, and have consensual sex with a desired partner.