Same-sex marriage is widely regarded as a western phenomenon. A union, recognised in western countries only, which is “corrupting” the minds of the Indian youth today. In India, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises unnatural sex under whose ambit fall homosexual acts. The debate regarding its criminalisation was thrown to light when in 2009, the Delhi High Court declared this section unconstitutional. Subsequently, in late 2013 the Supreme Court overturned this ruling and vested the right to amend this section upon the legislative.
One must understand that a country progresses not only economically or infrastructurally, but also socially. Civil rights are a major part of any country’s constitutional freedoms and the denial of which can be considered grave injustice. The concept of homosexuality may seem new to Indians but it actually is not. Indians are as homosexual as any other race. It is the society which has up until now prevented people from coming out of the closet. Ask yourself this, how many people around you are openly gay? Probably, none. If a prominent actor or sports personality was going to come out as gay tomorrow, would you be able to look at him/her without prejudice? Will you value their contributions as much as you do now? Answers to these questions are tough.
There was widespread public outcry when the Supreme Court criminalised homosexuality. And rightly so, the Court has denied people a basic human right. Courts or political parties have no right to dictate terms to the people of this great nation or to justify their sexual acts. One must be allowed the freedom to engage in consensual acts of any nature one deems appropriate. To criminalise it is injustice of a gravest kind. This could be blamed on the conservative mindset of the populace. If we have only about 74% literacy, we cannot expect our good old citizens to accept something which was unthinkable almost a decade ago. Public discussion about gay rights is still taboo in Indian society and nobody wishes to engage in this. One could point to the lack of recognition and the fear of exposure of the LGBT community for this.
The LGBT community in India however has a long way to go. After the Supreme Court’s decision, many prominent political parties, including the BJP (poised for power in the coming elections) came out in support of the Court’s direction. Even though gay marriage has become legal in several countries, India still recognises it unnatural and criminal. The archaic laws and beliefs are to blame for this. The country is under a transition period and the focus on gay rights has taken a step back. The esteemed and honourable Supreme Court has ruled against it thus, section 377 is here to stay.
What the country needs is a better information and educational system in terms of homosexuality. If people are made aware about its spread and acceptance in other countries, maybe they wouldn’t find it so unnatural. The community needs high-profile supporters. More and more people like Vikram Seth need to come out and voice their support for India’s LGBT community as currently, they are few and unorganised. Sustained efforts to educate the public are the need of the hour. I guess we need Bollywood someone like Karan Johar to lend some much-needed support to this community.