Section 377: A Mark of Shame Upon The Face of ‘Democratic’ India?
The LGBT Community in India
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, also known as the LGBT community, are no longer a minority in our society. Everyone is aware of their existence, some have even raised their voices for and against the rights that they deserve. As citizens of India, they are entitled to the same rights as any of us. So why is it that they are severely discriminated against? Why does the Indian Penal Code have a separate section which dictates the way in which they can live?
Problems This Community Faces
Section 377 categorically states that anybody who has voluntarily had intercourse against the so-called ‘order of nature’ with any man or woman will be punished with life imprisonment, or with imprisonment extending to ten years, and shall be liable to a fine.The legal problem posed by the existence of this section is only the tip of the iceberg for this community. They are shunned by their families; some are deeply insulted and taken to various doctors to cure them of this ‘disease’. While others are turned away from schools, colleges, jobs, etc. for no other reason but a deeply personal choice, which nobody should interfere with. Members of the LGBT community are bullied, mocked and constantly looked down upon or categorized as ‘abnormal’.
Under ordinary circumstances, anyone who has undergone such an injustice can easily raise their voice, approach a legal authority or even a government official, but if somebody’s gay, then this is viewed as a normal procedure and often ‘safety concerns for other employees or students’ are cited as fair reasons for their dismissal.
The Blatant Hypocrisy of a ‘Democratic’ Nation
People who try to raise their voice against this are barely even heard in our society. The Indian public of late has unfortunately turned into something akin to a flock of sheep. The politicians and influential social figures are the shepherds and guard dogs who a large section of the public follow blindly. With people such as the Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, calling homosexuality a ‘disease’ , BJP leader Subramanian Swamy calling homosexuals ‘genetically handicapped’ and Baba Ramdev claiming to have found a ‘cure’ to homosexuality, how is the cause of this community ever to progress?
The influence such people and their statements wield over the public is immense and this influence is being misused to gain support for their narrow minded beliefs.
I believe that any human being, irrespective of sexuality, deserves the right to love, the right to marry and spend their lives with whosoever they wish to and above all, the right to be treated as an equally integral part of our society.
The youth, large democracies worldwide and several international organizations have realized over time how one’s choice of sexuality is a deeply personal issue and that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender does not make someone different. Governments can make laws about things which are potential threats to its people or national security, but not about things which are practised in the confines of one’s own home. Stripping its own people of the fundamental rights to equality and freedom is not something any government should practice.
At a point, even the Delhi High Court echoed this sentiment and ruled against the implementation of Section 377, but alas the Supreme Court overruled this judgement and claimed that such matters should be left with the legislature and not the judiciary.
The Politics of LGBT Rights in India
The problem with this assessment is that the topic of Section 377 and LGBT rights in India has turned into an ugly political stand-off with parties such as the Congress claiming to support it, but not doing much other than condemning its arch rival, the Bhartiya Janta Party, on its anti- homosexuality statements. The sad truth of the matter is that nobody is willing to go the extra mile, face the music and actually stand up for the very people they claim to serve. Almost like every other issue in this nation, this too has become an ugly political stand-off with no concrete results. The number of politicians in the Parliament supporting the abolishment of Section 377, unfortunately, still remain a small minority and thus, are easily overruled by the older more respected and more reputed members of the House.
What We Should Do
This cannot go on any further. The youth needs to raise its voice. Small things such as educating one’s own family members about the lack of rights for the LGBT community can go a long way. Campaigns, marches and talks are a few ways through which awareness can be spread. Social media is an important tool and its use in highlighting the plight of this community is imperative. The media as the main aggressor of public opinion needs to ask the right questions to the right people. Politicians need to be questioned about such issues and not just about how much money who has in their Swiss Bank account.
In conclusion, I would like to simply state the following: being in love is not a crime, and lovers are not criminals. The largest ‘democracy’ in the world needs to stop treating them like murderers or thieves. They are human beings and deserve to be treated as equals, not as a shameful part of our society.[Image Attribute: nancydowd ]