It was about a week ago, when one day, like every day, I took a sip of my tea and started reading the newspaper. There were stories on what’s new this Valentine’s day and of course on how popular gifts like roses will see a steep rise in prices. Suddenly I realised that not everyone in our country is allowed to love freely. All thanks to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
Section 377 which debars any “unnatural sexual activity”, is on the verge of being removed from the IPC after a petition challenging its legitimacy was filed. With many condemning the law already, it seems that there is a fair chance of good news for the LGBTQ community which is still obscured and unrecognised under the layers of our complex social and cultural structures.
So, where does the problem lie?
It lies in the very imprudence of this law and the burden that has been lingering on since the British era. Not just that the law is harsh, but it also challenges an individual’s right to dignity and privacy. The other day, I came across an article in a renowned newspaper where a man described his petrifying experience in jail after he was booked under Section 377. He was beaten, thrashed, humiliated and was made to feel less human by the police and jail inmates.
This instance also questions our conscience and the world we live in. As a society, we cannot brand homosexuality as a ‘mental disorder’ because who we choose to love as consensual adults are nobody else’s business. The fact that commercial films have been using gay characters to mainly induce humour doesn’t help in changing the common man’s perception of the community which deserves justice and recognition.
Nevertheless, we have many examples in the contemporary world where several people have dared to go against the law and listened to their heart.
And why does this law still prevail? Why can’t we do away with it? What are we waiting for?