Decriminalizing Section 377 Is Only Half The Battle Won. There Is More To Be Done!

Posted: September 7, 2018

Due to the Supreme Court’s Verdict on Section 377, celebrations can be witnessed everywhere. But the major struggle still remains, writes Parvadavardini Sethuraman.

Yesterday’s date would go down in our country’s history in bright letters. After years of struggle, the Supreme Court partially struck down the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. In the words of the Honourable Supreme Court “Section 377, IPC, to the extent that it criminalises consensual sex between two adults is arbitrary, irrational and hence liable to be partially struck down.”

Before we go on to look why this is important, lets look at what Section 377 implies:

Unnatural Offences – Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation – Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.

The above explanation clearly implies that this section of the Indian Penal Code criminalized homosexuality, stating it to be an act against the course of nature. This section was modeled on the Buggery act of 1533, which was enacted in the reign of King Henry VIII. This law defined ‘buggery’ as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. While India so fervently held back to a colonial legislation, the United Kingdom decriminalized homosexuality in 1967.

Yesterday’s judgement by the apex court is being lauded and is indeed a praise worthy feat as it guarantees the right to privacy, right to freedom and right to life (right to dignified life) to the members of the LGBTQ community.These are Fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, but a section of the individuals were deprived of the same, which has been bestowed back upon them now. But this verdict is only half the battle won, the major struggle still remains. The implementation of this judgement and the social acceptability of the same play a very crucial role.

A few years back, the suicide of Dr. Priya Vedi an anaesthetist, working in AIIMS, New Delhi created a furore. The reason behind her suicide was the sexual orientation of her husband who she discovered was a homosexual. Though with time this news faded away, it is common knowledge that cases like Dr. Vedi’s are not rare. The reason behind such cases is our society’s stubbornness to stick to the colonial doctrine and refusal to accept homosexuality, as it does not confine to its definition of normal.

This results in creation of closet homosexuals like Dr. Vedi’s husband, who for the fear of society, create a facade of perfect life. At the end of the day there are two unhappy individuals trapped in a relationship they resent. While woman in such situations have managed to walk away but the emotional scars don’t fade easily.

More than the law, it is the social fear which prevents people from coming out in the open about their sexual orientation. The sad reality of our society is that even educated mental health professionals and political leaders in positions of power, irresponsibly comment about homosexuality being a disease that needs to be cured. The litany of god men and tantriks see this as a good opportunity to rake in the moolah, and offer bizarre and dangerous cures for this supposed ‘ailment’. It is clearly evident that homophobia is deep rooted in our society.

The traditionalists or rather those who consider themselves the guardians of culture, say that this is against the moral fabric of our society. But how can a consenting act between two adult individuals, in their private space, be affecting any moral fabric? Isn’t morality about respecting people’s choices and their privacy?

Strange is our society’s way of acceptance. Punishing people for making a choice is acceptable, but an act of love is abhorred. For all those who say this is not what is considered normal by society, in the words of Marty Rubin “Normal isn’t normal, it’s just what you’re used to.” No one’s private life should be for society to analyse.

There have been mixed responses on the existence of homo-sexuality in ancient India. While some agree with this, the others are quick to point out that ancient culture never accepted it, therefore making it a reason for not accepting it even today.

In the words of Author Devdutt Patnaik, “We must remind ourselves that the ancient sources that censure homosexual conduct, also institutionalized the caste system and approved the subservience of women.” So when we could rise above those limiting and negative practices, take the step forward, why can’t we change our thought process on the concept of alternate sexuality.

Yesterday’s verdict has been a massive step towards creating an inclusive society, but we as a society have to rise above our limitations of narrow mindedness, closed thinking and homophobia to make the vision of this verdict a reality.

Image Source – Pexels

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