Can the Indian Army Ever Accept Homosexuals?

The Indian army is known to be orthodox in its procedures and stances. It has still not accepted women whole heartedly as equals and accepting homosexuals is even further from being a reality. This blog talks about the reaction of Army chiefs to the Sec 377 judgment and what it means to them.

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Recently, in a major landmark judgment that shook India’s conservative community and uplifted the minority gay community was the unanimous five bench judge decision on ‘decriminalization of homosexuality’ under section 377, IPC. The majority population among the LGBTQ community rejoiced over the judgment exclaiming their right to freedom and equality. However, there were some reactions from communities that did not accept gay rights. Such were from ruling party BJP, RSS, and most recently, the Indian Army.[1] The current Army General Bipin Rawat exclaimed his disappointment over the judgment stating that homosexuality is ‘not acceptable’ in the Army.

Army’s Conservatism

The General also exclaimed his disregard for infidelity. He insisted saying” hum logo key yaha aisa nahi chalega” (all of this won’t work here).[2]The shocking reason behind his statement was rightly stating that “the army is conservative. The army is a family”.[3]General Rawat stated that the Indian army, in respect of homosexuality, is “neither modernized, nor westernized”.[4]In that sense, the army needs to get modernized because in a country like India, which is still dealing with caste and religious discrimination; it is the armed forces that have always been avant-garde, meaning modern and unorthodox.[5]

Moreover, under the sections 45 and 46(a) of the Army Act, General Rawat has defined homosexuality and adultery as an ‘unbecoming conduct’ and a ‘disgraceful act’. The respective clauses have been reproduced below:

45. Unbecoming conduct. Any officer, junior commissioned officer or warrant officer who behaves in a manner unbecoming his position and the character expected of him shall, on conviction by courtmartial, if he is an officer, be liable to be cashiered or to suffer such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned; and, if he is a junior commissioned officer or a warrant officer, be liable to be dismissed or to suffer such less punishment as is in this Act mentioned.

46. Certain forms of disgraceful conduct. Any person subject to this Act who commits any of the following offences, that is to say,- (a) is guilty of any disgraceful conduct of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind; [6]

From the above provisions the said provisions are very arbitrary and are open to interpretation, although the apex court order removed the “unnatural” tag from homosexuals.[7]

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It is universally known that adultery is awful and nobody in their right mind would support it. However, homosexuality should not be considered a crime because it is natural. Therefore, if a person who is good at his/her job and doesn’t get affected or distracted by his sexual orientation shouldn’t be a problem at any field let alone the army. In countries like Israel, Britain, Russia and the US — after the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy in 2011 was dismantled which barred ‘openly’ gay Americans from the army — not only allowed gay recruits, but have actually benefited from the entry of fine soldiers earlier prohibited just for being homosexual. Hence, people shouldn’t be recruited based on their sexual orientation rather on their performance.[8]

Also, few months back, the army chief stated that women are not ready for combat roles giving absurd reasons such as raising their children; taking care of the family and women officers uncomfortable on the frontlines, etc.[9] His comments sparked widespread criticism and the Army Chief was criticized a lot for his sexist comment from all quarters.[10]In this way, the Army Chief is trying to state that Indian Army is still backward and today as well, women and other minorities don’t have the basic principle of justice and equality.

Unfortunately, the basic question still exists regarding the violation of fundamental right of equality and freedom as denying homosexuals their rights in the military and treating them as criminals is like imprisoning them for life without any fault. This way an example is being set that if the people in the military are not given the liberty to exercise their right, then no one in any other work place or in the society is free to exercise their right of freedom.

Also, justice is not being served to the homosexuals on the grounds of protecting our so called ‘morals’. Well, our ‘morals do say to support every individual and to provide justice to everyone. Thus, it is very easy to disapprove something or defend one’s stereotypes and mental schemas against the rightful call for protecting the rights of homosexuals who are like us in each and every manner except for their sexual orientation but it is very difficult to work in a real democratic spirit and actually to practice what you preach.[11]

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Finally, I conclude that India is on a long road ahead to modernization with only some percentage of the population more free and open to new ideas which oppose old traditions. The rest of the population is still under the orthodox beliefs and practices and will take a long time to change their thinking and mindset. Also, homosexuality is neither a disease nor a mental illness and everyone including the army must consider homosexuals with respect and treat them better rather than discriminating in every field.

Also read The Weeping of the Sexually Exploited: Rights to Justice of the Unheard

[1]The Hindu Net Desk, Reactions to Section 377 verdict | Jamaat-e-Islami Hind expresses dismay, THE HINDU(Sep 06, 2018 12:24P.M. IST)

[2]Indian Army is Conservative, Cannot Allow Homosexuality in the Force: General Bipin Rawat, NEWS18 (Jan 10, 2019, 10:51 P.M. IST)

[3]Agence France- Presse, ‘Not acceptable’: Indian army backs gay sex ban despite decriminalization, THE GUARDIAN(Jan 11, 2019, 01:33 GMT)

[4]Vishnu Som, Won’t Allow Gay Sex in The Army, Says Chief General Rawat, NDTV(Jan 10, 2019, 17:58 IST)

[5]General Bipin Rawat gets it wrong, yet again, ECONOMIC TIMES(Jan 10, 2019 11:11 P.M. IST)

[6]The Army Act, 46, 1950.

[7]Supra note 2.

[8]Supra note 3.

[9]Supra note 2.

[10]SC order on decriminalizing gay sex to be implemented in Army? Gen Rawat says won’t allow this to happen, TIMESNOWNEWS (Jan 10, 2019, 17:48 IST)

[11]Pritika Jain, Should the Homosexuals Be Allowed to Serve in the Military: A Critical Analysis,20 IOSR-JHSS,12, 14-15(2015).