Decriminalization of Section 377 has helped establish LGBTQIA+ community as a part of Indian society. Homosexuality has always been a topic that people were too ashamed to discuss. Being gay or transgender in this society meant that you would be banished by your own families and cannot get a decent education or job. This is still the case in many places around the country. But since the Supreme Court of India decriminalized Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) on September 6, 2018, people have become more aware and accepting of this community.
“Being Homosexual is a choice. You can always switch back to being normal.” This is a statement that every queer individual in Indian society has heard at least once in their life. But if being gay was a choice, why would someone put themselves in a position of rejection from the entire society? Many individuals and organizations who have faced a backlash from the community have protested for decades to get homosexuality decriminalized in India. Our nation had always viewed homosexuality to be an influence of the western media and turned it into a taboo.
People in the LGBTQIA+ community have always faced difficulties accepting their sexuality. It is a long, scary situation, where the person doesn’t know how their coming out will affect their and their family’s life. But since the decriminalization, people are a little more relieved to identify themselves as homosexual as they won’t be charged as criminals in the eyes of the judicial system. The fear people have in their mind regarding the queer community is because they are unaware and uneducated on this matter. Reading up on the history, exploring, meeting people who have gone through similar experiences can help people in the society understand that this is not unnatural or foreign to us.
This law instilled fear in its citizens. People couldn’t be who they wanted to be in society. The decriminalization of Section 377 has helped people become more vocal about their choices, especially their sexuality.
India was instead a more accepting place for its citizens before the British established the Section 377. India is a secular country where people from all religion and caste live. Most of the people protesting for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community grew up in the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. They did not possess a lot of exposure to the queer community. There are evident examples in art, literature, religious texts, sculpture and folklore.
Sacred texts of Hinduism tell tales of same-sex love and gender-fluid figures. The Hindu deity, Shiva is worshipped as a multi-gendered person commonly known as his ‘Ardhanarishvara’ form. Texts from Hinduism refer to a “third gender” and in popular dialect are widely known as “Hijras”, who have played a social and religious role in everyday life. Kamasutra, one of the most important pieces of literature on sex and sexuality, contains a reference to ‘Svairini’ which refers to a liberated woman who co-habitats with another woman. These are just very few of the examples from Indian Mythology that portray a character that is potentially LGBTQIA+.
Picture Courtesy: Swathi Subhash Nair
People consume media which they can relate to because it helps a person feel like they are understood. There was no representation of a brown queer person in the press or internet 10-15 years ago. Hence, the majority of Indian population couldn’t relate or even fathom the idea of having a queer family member, friend or a neighbour.
People believe what they are told to think. Homosexuality being a western idea, is one such thing among many others. Categorizing homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ was something the Brits did in almost 150 years ago and a colonized mind passed it on for more than a century. Decriminalization was a step in the right direction, and it has helped the community be more noticeable, which will help the coming generations to understand homosexuality better. But our society has a long way to go before we accept the LGBTQIA+ community entirely with open arms.
So this June, let us celebrate Pride Month by understanding a learning a little more about the Queer community and their history. A small step by an individual can undoubtedly go a long way in their fight of acceptance.