India Decriminalizes Gay Sex

 

Rainbow flags.

Thursday was a giant leap for India towards equality and a proud one, too. India’s Supreme Court judges unanimously voted to overrule a 157-year-old law known as Section 377 that considered same-sex intercourse an “offense.” Love won in the world’s largest democracy. As a writer of this article, I have to keep the tone neutral and calm; but as a fellow Indian, I have tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. It’s a big moment for us.

So what is the Section 377 you may ask? Well, let’s push the timeline back by a few hundreds of years. India was (hold your breath….) actually pretty accepting of homosexuality. Centuries-old Hindu temples depict erotic encounters between members of the same-sex. Transgenders were given a special status. Then the British marched in on their horsebacks and the aura of tolerance and acceptance that had been existing for centuries took a three-sixty turn. In 1860, the British introduced Section 377 of the Indian Penal code imposing up to a life sentence on anyone who voluntarily had carnal intercourse against the order of nature. Just like that, our once liberal minds had turned into what we now know as the conservative Indian mindset — somewhat like reverse modernism.

 

People celebrating.The current situation is one I write with grief. You know something’s not right when you have more socialist groups protesting against the LGBTQ community than those protesting against sexual abuse, government corruption and other hundreds of problem India constantly has to deal with. Most Indians go to great lengths to arrange marriages with the right families of the right castes. Countless gays have been shunned by their parents and persecuted by society. It’s often thought as a mental sickness and many gays have been forced to undergo ritualistic conversion to rid them of their “demonic possession.” Thousands of queer Indians grapple with a fundamental part of their identity. At times like these, Section 377 has been used as a bludgeon to threaten, persecute and abuse.

Hence, on Thursday when the five Supreme Court judges decided that an individual should not face the walls of a prison for who he/she chooses to love, the LGBTQ activists, who had been fighting for decades, had their first big win. It was an atmosphere of celebration. News channels showed people in cities across India weeping and embracing as they celebrated the historic decision. Justice Indu Malhotra said “history owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights.”

India has significant work to do to ensure that the rights of people who have been long marginalized on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity are fully protected. The next step is legalizing gay marriage. It’s going to be one long ride. Changing the law was one of the easier tasks. Now, we have to work on changing mindsets. But we’ve come this far on the road to equality, might as well take the trip to complete social acceptance. While we’re on it, let’s celebrate the destination we are currently.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.