Voices Monday, April 20, 2015 - 05:30
In a country where homosexuals are socially stigmatised and legally criminalised, what are people to do? If you openly admit you are gay or lesbian, you face imprisonment and if you don’t, you stare at the real possibility of destroying not just your life but that of others as well. That in a nutshell is the story of Indians who, on the one hand are increasingly aware of their sexual rights through mass media and online information, but who live in a society that exists between five centuries all rolled into one. Add to that the recent Supreme Court reversal of the Delhi High Court decision to decriminalise Section 377 (which prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature"). Some months ago, a man in Bengaluru working in the IT sector was jailed after his wife found out that he was gay. Was he afraid of the law, himself or a mixture of the two? By punishing him and his parents, is justice granted to his wife who reported him to the police? One of the Sections he has been booked under is Section 377, after his wife caught him having sex with another man. He is now being punished for being gay, more than he is being punished for having misled a woman. Then there is the story of a woman who took her life because her parents married her her off to a gay man.  Everyone knows, no one acknowledges for the sake of honour that all-encompassing word which is handy when we kill (honour killings) or want to turn a blind eye to injustice. In a country where parental pressure to marry – whether you are gay or not – starts to build up as teenagers reach the twenties we ask – what are we doing to our children and to ourselves? Why should the sexual preference of a human being matter if s/he is happy with herself? How did all his begin and will there be an end? Criminalising gay sex was written into the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1860. In response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the civil society group NAZ Foundation, a two-judge bench of the Delhi high court ruled that the section did not apply to sexual relations between consenting adults. But, in December 2013 the court’s decision was struck down by the Supreme Court on grounds that the decision to repeal or amend the section should be left to the Indian parliament. In January this year, the country’s top legal body refused to review it judgment. That leaves the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in a terrible situation and hands over the advantage to parents keen to make the point that such sex is “unnatural.” Parents are known to beat, ostracise or disown their children because of their sexual preferences. A decision like that of the Supreme Court has prompted parents to take their “ailing” children to places of worship or seek psychiatric and medical help. Astrologers and soothsayers are being roped in to predict when a family member will return to “normalcy.” We have definitions for love linked to purity. We have definitions for purity no one understands. We do not speak about sex openly even when it is necessary to protect our children from predators. No government has the courage to say sex education should be compulsory in schools. The only time we speak about sex is when we frame it as a problem or when someone is raped. Many parents simply cannot let their sons and daughters be, if they find out that they are homosexual. But in indulging their prejudices and fears, families victimise gay men, and both together end up victimising women who gay men may marry.  Is this what we are comfortable with? That is quite a commentary on a nation of 1.3 billion people.
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