A day after UN Human Rights day, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This section criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ – this includes anal and oral sex (consensual) and attracts a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
For those of you who are wondering what on Earth is happening in India, Section 377 was written in 1861, introduced by the Victorian British Colonists. The land of open sexual expression and the Kama Sutra, has since embraced this section as it upholds our “culture”. In 2009, the Delhi High Court, decriminalized homosexuality in what we all hailed as a historic and milestone achievement in Human Rights saying that the section needs to be amended as its essence goes against the fundamental rights of human citizens.
Two steps forward. One giant step back.
India – a country that rushes to proclaim it’s freedom from colonial oppression but still clings on to regressive Victorian laws. Don’t forget that by this law, oral sex is also a crime and therefore, as of yesterday, we are a nation of criminals and the only few outstanding human beings are sitting in the Parliament and in the Supreme Court. Bravo India!
I was first kissed by a girl in the 7th grade. I felt guilty for ages because my Indian and Catholic upbringing taught me that it was a ‘sin’. I cried myself to sleep every night for a month, KNOWING that I would go to hell. The girl in question was from a recently broken home and she came from an abusive past. We were good friends and in retrospect I saw that it was an act of love and affection. We were taught that we had to stay away from people whose parents were divorced, who were adopted, who were “different” to what was their idea of wrong and so I distanced myself from her for a while. I kicked myself for it for a long time after and then stopped being so hard on myself because I was only 12. I vowed to always strive to unlearn what is taught to me and to always use my head and my heart, rather than popular belief.
When I was in 9th grade, an English Teacher called my parents and told them that I have “lesbian tendencies” because I tended to play basketball, hang out with boys and always be there for the girls who didn’t come from their idea of an ideal background. I raged. My dad smiled at the teacher and nodded. I thought I was in trouble for sure. When we left the classroom, my dad patted me on the back, bought me my favourite ice-cream and said “I’m proud of you”
In the 10th grade, I saw a female couple holding hands and gazing into each other eyes. I said to myself then that I wanted to know a love like that – that tender, that obvious, that all consuming. I later found out that they were caught, their parents called in and they were forbidden to ever see each other again.
In University, I met my first openly gay man. He was only a boy but out and proud. Everyone teased him. His name became a metaphor for when someone was emotional or being effeminate. It can’t have been easy, not in any country. Especially not in India. But he never pretended to be who he wasn’t.
When I first started working, I met someone who went on to become my closest friends. People assumed we were dating. Other people assumed I was lesbian. I could deal with the gossip, it doesn’t directly affect me when people make narrow minded comments. I refused to use the popular “This is <insert name here>, my gay best friend”.I wasn’t about to start doing that unless there was a mass revolution to mention sexuality before relationship.
“Hey, this is <insert name here>, my heterosexual friend with a foot fetish.
I am incensed that the best friend who cherishes me, treats me with respect, is there for me, who supports his family even though they ostracised him, the one who is hard working, who has time for you even with his plate being overfull is a criminal. And that man who rubbed against me in a crowded bus is “normal”
Homophobia is not something you are born with. Neither is racism or sexism. It says so much about your society when it teaches you hatred over love, discrimination over inclusion. Love is love is love.
Shame on you India.
Check out the Gay for a Day Campaign – https://www.facebook.com/events/429103060550121/. Sign up.