Will The Right To Privacy Change Our Talks About 377?

Posted by Sunit Bhattacharya
August 30, 2017

The idea of a university is dying with every passing day. The debating culture and the willingness to discuss and talk about topics that matter are experiencing a steady fall. And unfortunate still is the fact that the institutes that were raised to educate the bright young minds of the future are producing individuals who do not possess the ability to ‘think’.

Many ‘elite’ institutes are harbouring strange notions of sexism and homophobia. The patriarchal mindset of the majority population in these institutes is corrupting the very purpose of education. The other day, when a respected faculty member of a central university described gender to be a binary, not a single person in the class made even a feeble attempt to object to the point. Not even me.

In the evening, when another male student made a very objectionable comment on a voluptuous female student, everyone laughed. This time too, no one said anything. Not even me.

This inability of ours to speak up against sexism that happens every day around us is preventing the discussion on the same. When we are not ready to acknowledge the fact that such patriarchal and homophobic traits make up the fabric of our very personality, we really cannot hope to hold discussions and indulge in self-criticism on the same topics.

The recent ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the right to privacy has left many civil liberty activists overjoyed.  The court has ruled that privacy includes at its core, the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. The judgment has huge implications.

Many think this to be an effective legal weapon against the ridiculous moral policing that happens in the nation. Others think that the inclusion of sexual orientation in the judgment will pave the way for the subsequent decriminalisation of homosexuality.

But most are missing the point. It is indeed a moment of joy for privacy and civil liberty activists. But the question is, can rulings like this change the perception of the public towards these issues? The bigger question is: will this change anything?

Even though the message that is being delivered through the judgment is evident, it is unlikely that our society will realise the implications of the verdict anytime soon. For a nation that is obsessed with the ‘Sharma-ji ka beta’ syndrome and where any signs of deviation from the ‘normal’ is considered a taboo, the issues being attempted to be addressed by the court are unlikely to reach the dinner table discussions in India.

We tend to forget that privacy includes the point of personal intimacies. The question that arises next is, that if personal intimacies are a part of my privacy, shouldn’t marital rape be an offence too? When the progressive nation marches in the pride parade every year, trying to assert that we have a population of proud LGBTQ+, thousands of women are suffering due to the inability of the judicial system to safeguard women against marital rape.

The problem lies with our society and our perspective of the world. Rampant patriarchy has indeed attempted to project women as objects of pleasure. But in this era of technology, it is our collective failure to evolve from such a regressive mindset that is causing problems. The symbol of masculinity and its supposed dominance over women has ensured that the gender binary stays embedded in the society. And unfortunately, we are not ready to accept this fact.

It is well proven that education, especially the kind of learning we have in our institutions, has failed to break the stereotypes about gender and patriarchy. This is the same reason why we have brilliant professors working to develop better technology for a better world, but are covered head to toe with the thick soot of patriarchy and ignorance of gender issues. The cut-throat competition in elite institutes is discouraging the young minds to think about the society. Even as we move towards the so called cover of ‘modernity’, we are ashamed to talk about issues that need attention urgently.

I will cite two incidents to make my point clear. A few weeks ago, over a Skype chat with his mother, a friend very casually mentioned a proposal from a homosexual friend of his. This particular event upset his mother so much that she recommended him to visit a priest to ward off any evil. Similarly, when my closest female friend told me that she does not like men, and asserted her asexuality, it was pretty normal for me. But when I shared with friends who don the tag of progressive intellectuals, they gasped in wonder.

This is where the communication gap starts. For a country with a pathetic record in sex education, and violence against women making headlines every day, this is probably normal. We are probably that rare breed of hypocrites who hate to admit that something is wrong with us.

For many of us, the word lesbian, gay, bi and trans are very hazy. For some reason, even though the internet data highway is at our fingertips, we remain ignorant of the fact that alternate orientations are normal. And for many of us, the term asexual is a bizarre concept.

The problem is for people like us, who are used to objectifying women and asserting the dominance of their manliness, it is impossible to think beyond the traditional stereotypes of gender. This is the same reason the historic judgment is unlikely to change anything in this country. For a country whose legislative states that recognition of marital rape has the potential of disrupting the foundations of marriage, dreaming of big changes is hard. When the legislative, which is effectively the representation of the general population of India, refuses to acknowledge the issue of marital rape, dreaming of the decriminalisation of homosexuality is just a utopian dream.

Furthermore, for a country where the mainstream entertainment consists of a show promoting underage marriage, dinner table conversations on sexuality is just a fantasy. As a nation, we need to work on a lot of issues. Awareness about gender issues is a priority among them. We need to understand the concept of individualism and respect individual privacy. Being ‘different’ should not be a taboo, and we as a progressive nation should be more mature. We need to realise that the world is not just black and white and that we have moved on from the colonial mindset of morality.

We need to remember that miracles do happen. The only hope we can have is for the people to understand the meaning of privacy and realise the enormous implication of the judgment.

Change is indeed a slow process, and we are lucky that the judiciary is concerned about the regressive laws of the country. The question is when will the democratic representatives think about these issues. More importantly, the question is when will we as a nation start talking on these matters.