Homosexuality: You Don’t Have To Shame, Let’s Get Things Straight

This article is regarding homosexuality-attraction towards people of your own sex. Now, by law according to section 377 of IPC 1860, “Someone doing physical intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment of life or ten years of imprisonment plus fine”. The question here is that who gets to decide what comes naturally for you and what does not.

Homosexuality and Law

Being accepted in society is a basic human need but what is more basic is the need to accept yourself. This article is regarding homosexuality-attraction towards people of your own sex. Now, by law according to section 377 of IPC 1860, “Someone doing physical intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment of life or ten years of imprisonment plus fine”. The question here is that who gets to decide what comes naturally for you and what does not. The light should also be shed upon this thing that all the activities that are done in this world are not done just for reproduction. It could be for companionship, love, or even just pleasure.

The reactions of homosexuality differ widely. In every major city, you are likely to see plenty of gay pride parades, but mainly comprising students and activists (educated and/or young people). There is queer rights organization operating for many years in cities as well as suburban areas – which bring out magazines, have support groups, and one organization in Mumbai even holds an LGBT Youth Conference every year.

It is not a topic talked about very frequently, though, and many older people don’t even know homosexuals exist. However, there is plenty of local literature (at least in my language – Bengali) about gay people, so people who generally read magazines and newspaper supplements are unlikely to be ignorant about the topic even if they don’t know English. Spreading awareness about this issue still maintains to be a very important part of heading towards inequality,

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is a law that criminalizes any ‘unnatural’ sexual act. ‘Natural’ being, that which ultimately results in the progeny. A law that was put in place in the year 1860, 377 has been touted as rather controversial and limiting. In the case of NAZ foundation(a non-governmental organization ) Vs. Government of NCT of Delhi which filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court in 2001, seeking legalization of homosexual intercourse between consenting adults. The Delhi High Court refused to consider a petition regarding the legality of the law, saying that the petitioners had no locus standi in the matter. Naz Foundation appealed to the Supreme Court of India against the decision of the High Court to dismiss the petition on technical grounds. The Supreme Court decided that Naz Foundation had the standing to file a public interest lawsuit in this case, and sent the case back to the Delhi High Court to reconsider it on the merits. The Court located the rights to dignity and privacy within the right to life and liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution and held that criminalization of consensual gay sex violated these rights.[1] Public animus and disgust towards a particular social group or vulnerable minority, it held, is not a valid ground for classification under Article 14. Article 15 of the Constitution forbids discrimination based on certain characteristics, including sex. The Court held that the word “sex” includes not only biological sex but also sexual orientation, and therefore discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is not permissible under Article 15. The Court also noted that the right to life under Article 21 includes the right to health, and concluded that Section 377 is an impediment to public health because it hinders HIV-prevention efforts.[2]

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The Court did not strike down Section 377 as a whole and upheld homosexuality. The section was declared unconstitutional insofar as it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private. The judgment keeps intact the provision insofar as it applies to non-consensual non-vaginal intercourse and intercourse with minors. The court stated that the judgment would hold until Parliament chose to amend the law.

But recently, I came across an article where an Indian girl shares her story of being a lesbian in India. She is made to sleep with her cousin claiming that she has not had sex with a guy before and that is what is making her say nonsensical things like she wants to marry a girl. Some people are given shock treatments and the others are simply thrown out of their houses. We as a group are totally against the view that being attracted to the same sex as yours is a mental disorder. In fact, it is an age-old phenomenon which is present in almost all the species on the earth and it is just one species that is humans who are homophobic. Homosexuality is nothing that can be reversed and shouldn’t be.

Talking about stereotyping all gay men in the movies are shown to be fashionistas and feminine which is not the real scenario. The real scenario is based on the simple fact that all humans are different. Period.

Also, now talking about the transgender, most of them are beggars or sex workers but it is 80% of the times not out of choice but because of lack of opportunities in the other sectors for them. In the rehabilitation programme, a woman shared her story that she was given a cow on loan and easy repayments but to feed the cow she needed to work as a sex worker to transport the milk to the packager she again had to do sex work and ultimately she had to sell the cow. So let us look forward to more practical plans for the same and not just get rid of them.

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Issues like LGBT youth homelessness and the alarming murder rates of transgender women of color and the people who get suffocated because they cannot reveal their identity because they won’t be accepted in the society are major obstacles that deserve a lot more attention. There’s a lot more to be fighting for.

“What sexual preference do I have?” “Happiness. Isn’t that cool?”

I would say that the law maker has taken an appreciable step in eliminating the stigma over LGBT people by decriminalizing sec 377 of IPC and providing them a normal life with all the basic human rights free from harassment or discrimination.

Apart from this, mere enforcement is not sufficient. The mentality of the people also needs a change. The first step is sex education in schools and homes. Children need to feel comfortable when discussing sexual options and issues related to sex with their parents and teachers. It is also important for parents/teachers to understand the situation of the children and to teach accordingly. Therefore, in terms of gender, not only children but also adults need education and improved sensitivity.

Similarly, when portraying these people in programs and movies, we also need to think more about our media and film industry. In fact, society needs to understand their situation and reality because they can play a very important role in communication and communication helps to spread real information about LGBT people/homosexuality and their sexual choices.

[1] Sheela Bhatt, “Gay Rights is matter of Public Interest: SC”, Rediff News, Retrieved 2009-07-07.

[2]  Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 160 Delhi Law Times 277.