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Unfurling the Rainbow Flag…

July 4, 2009

Thursday, 2nd July 2009. July 2nd will probably be remembered as the day when the judiciary bench in India rewrote a 149 year old rule in its Penal Code. Article 377. Period. It’s significance lies in recognizing the fact that in a democratic country like India, basic fundamental rights have to be common for every citizen. The Delhi High Court’s verdict legalizing Homosexuality between two consenting adults is a giant leap forward for an Orthodox country like India. Despite a booming economy and all the hype about we marching with a new vision into the 21st century, we Indians are still very orthodox and at times racist when it comes to issues like Sex, Homosexuality, Caste, Religion etc. India, with its age old traditions, has been a melting pot for various cultures and religions for over 2000 years. Ever since India became independent, our constitution has been amended, rules modified several times, probably more than any other country across the world has ever done in the past 50 years or so. But repealing Article 377 from the constitution is a bold move something as revolutionary as introducing the Act on Right To Information.

Yesterday almost all news channels began flashing images of the gay community rejoicing the verdict given by Delhi High Court and along with this, the news channels were quick enough to gather opinions from Politicians, Activists and Religious heads. Most of them chose a safe path and I was particularly impressed with the views of the NCP MP, Supriya Sule and all that she said can be summed up in three words, “Let Them Be…” I think that’s what the whole movement on gay rights was trying to say. The religious heads had a very valid point as well about how this decision is going to impact the society at large. If this article on TOI about yesterday’s verdict is anything to go by, then we certainly do have a glimpse of what people are thinking. Most of those opinions had one thing in common that “India has gone to dogs.” A careful observation of all those opinions will reveal the normal Indian psyche and it’s not surprising at all! We don’t understand the importance of safe sex, equality, humanity, conscience and how to judge caste, creed, race, culture, religion and almost everything else to the extent which is essential to lead a normal and a happy life. The absence of a balance opinion about one’s sexual orientation in that long list doesn’t make us any more ignorant.

Repealing Article 377 today is,however, not being seen as a bone of contention as much as accepting homosexuality as normal. That’s the problem with India and its people. We always rely on our religion texts and our opinions and judgement is based on what they quote when it comes to issues which require serious thought. It’s like people can’t think for themseleves anymore and always rely on others opinions. Well, as a matter of fact, the religious texts of almost all the religions, especially Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are more than 1500 years old. But the world has moved on and almost everything else has changed except our religious texts. Maybe it’s time to do something about it and change some of our idealogies. Maybe it’s time someone wrote a clear depiction of  “Nutopia” created by John Lennon!

I have had this discussion on Homosexuality with few friends and colleagues on more than one occasion. And most of them seemed to have one question, “It’s against the basic law of nature. They can’t mate and have children, so why do it?”. I kept searching for answers. I soon realised that I knew nothing about the LGBT community. We still haven’t made basic sex-education compulsory in our schools and expecting someone to have a balanced opinion about Homosexuality is too much to ask for. If we take into account the population of our country, India should more or less have one of the largest number of homosexual population in the world. But then there’s social stigma, a general belief that it’s a disease and article 377!

On a different note, as I try to make sense about why is all this hoopla around a Gay Rights Movement happening now, I realise that probably it has been around for sometime and most of us weren’t even aware of it. Ever since films (Bollywood) have started skimming the surface of homosexuality whether for entertainment or artistic reasons, the issue has become more public. And obviously a nationwide movement was just around the country and this year several hundreds of people (both Homosexuals and Heterosexuals) participated in rallies across Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. The gay rights movement in its current form is more about demanding the government to grant the same rights as everyone else in the country. It’s more about asking and appealing to one’s conscience to leave an age old stigma and respect them as human beings. What remains to be seen is how are we going to react to this earnest request!

Few years ago, the Government officials in Uttar Pradesh had appointed Transgenders as recovery agents to collect money from shopkeepers who wouldn’t pay their dues. A smart move! In 1998, a Transgender named Shabnam Mausi became an MLA from Sohagpur constituency in Madhya Pradesh. Does repealing Article 377 mean that we are going to see more LGBTs all around us? I doubt it…everyone has their own lives to live and as long as people don’t interfere in one another’s life everything will be the same as it was. Fow now, India with all its age old traditions is about to face a huge moral dilemma which transcends issues like Reservations and Caste. Because this is an issue which has been in the closet for too long and most of us have got no clue how to react to it. For now, all we can do is to shed the belief that homosexuality is a disease and try to understand them better before coming to a conclusion. All I want to say is, “Let Them Be.”

By,

Hemanth

P.S: This year’s English Film, “Milk” is a must watch if you are looking for some information of how the Gay Rights Movement started. Beautiful film and Sean Penn delivers a sparkling performance!..:)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Sneha permalink
    July 4, 2009 1:32 pm

    Nice Post.
    Homosexuality is a topic of intense scientific research,as the biological basis of homosexuality is not properly understood.What is known for sure is that it is nature of a individual(leaving out the biological mechanism for the time being)and not unnatural behaviour.

    “It’s against the basic law of nature. They can’t mate and have children, so why do it?”

    Homosexuality is prevalent among other animals notably among the Bonobo Chimpanzees our closest relatives on the evolutionary tree.So,it is not against some law in nature(if there is one :-)) Besides all of sex does not/should result in procreation.In Ape societies sex serves a broader function than just of procreation.It is more often than not used as a source of pleasure, negotiation and bonding between individuals.If procreation was prerequisite for the act of sex to be legitimate (reminds me of the world depicted in the novel 1984) ,then most of the world is indulging in unnatural sexual behaviour by using contraception.

    • Hemanth permalink*
      July 4, 2009 3:47 pm

      @Sneha: Damn…I should have talked to you and quoted your opinions on this issue!…:)..anyway, thanks for the comment…you have thrown some light on things which I had no clue about previously…:)…Thanks for dropping in!..:)

      • Sneha permalink
        July 6, 2009 11:39 pm

        I decided to write a few lines since you claimed you did not understand the biology behind it.The biology part aside,I find the ” because it is unnatural” theory absurd. It is analogous to saying left-handed people should be barred from playing in sports or using their left hand because it is “unnatural” as most of the human population right-handed.Homosexuals are a minority in the population just like left-handed people are.Left-handedness isn’t a big deal while homosexuality is a big-deal.We humans have various taboos associated with sexuality hence deviations from the common orientation is tabooed as well.Homosexuality probably was not understood for centuries and it received positive and negative reactions from the society.But in the face of greater understanding of the topic,it baffles me to see how we can still continue with the same old attitude and laws.

        I think sex between two consenting ADULTS should be a decision for them to make and it is nobody else’s damned business.I think matters of the body are best left to individuals themselves.It is only fair that homosexual couples be allowed all the legal privileges that heterosexual couples enjoy.

        I imagine there is a certain population which equates homosexuality to a sexual perversion on the same level as pedophilia.This population clearly is ignorant,I don’t have the patience for them as they need to educate themselves.Nevertheless, I am wary of them and there would like to point out that I approve of sex between “informed” consenting ADULTS.Another common argument people put forward to the following statement “Homosexuality is prevalent among other animals,therefore it is not unnatural” is on these lines “We are not animals,so how does it matter what they do?”
        -It matters what animals do,because we are animals too.We share ancestors with them and therefore physiological, behavioral traits too. It does not mean we don’t different from them.We differ from them in very few but major ways. For example,this ability to look critically at our actions and reasoning.

        If it is okay to dissect various to find out the function of a heart,it can or rather should be the norm for also comparing our sexual behaviors.

        and lastly “If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other.”-Carl Shurz
        That is reason enough for why heterosexuals should support and fight for the rights of homosexuals.

        Thanks for your patience 😉

        • July 7, 2009 11:32 am

          @Sneha,
          Few thoughts of mine on this..

          1.
          A. I want to throw some light on the argument of calling homosexuality as unnatural from the scientific perspective. By procreating, all the organisms unconsciously contribute to the process of evolution, for the betterment of some of the attributes of genes.Viewing it from the point of evolution, isn’t homosexuality a dead-end of the process of evolution? So isn’t it unnatural from the scientific perspective also?

          B. Research in the field of genetics says, it still a grey area whether to call homosexuality entirely a trait by birth or is it a trait picked while one grows up. So if conservatives think the altered sexual orientation is a *bad habit* just like smoking and consuming alcohol. Are they totally wrong?

          2. I agree what two consenting adults do in their bedroom is nobody’s business. But the fear of the conservatives is, what if their daughter or son marries a person of same gender. They protested when age and caste was not said to be a bar for marriage. When they are gradually opening up for it, there awaits a shock for them. Now liberals are pushing them to accept even gender is not a bar!?!?

  2. July 6, 2009 1:44 pm

    Hemanth,

    Nice post..
    Chk my take on this topic in my blog. Frankly, Im in dilemma about this whole issue…

    Do drop in your valuable comments..

  3. July 6, 2009 1:54 pm

    Forgot to mention about one thing.
    Since you have mentioned Bollywood depicting the GLBT characters in movies, I hate the casual depiction in movies like Kal ho na ho, Dosata or many other movies of 90s where a hero’s gang had a eunuch member as some comic element(!). It is not the right approach…

    For that matter I would prefer Tamanna(Dir: Mahesh Bhatt) or Milk or even Welcome to Sajjanpur…

    • Hemanth permalink*
      July 6, 2009 2:30 pm

      @Anantha: Probably I could have written a little more about representation of LGBTs in Hindi Cinema…but then thought that it would be a different case study altogether..hence didn’t write about it so much…you seem to have written tons of things on this issue in your blog..shall definitely drop in my comments..:)

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