A couple of years after British Raj commenced in India, a law was formulated and added to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) titled Section 377 banning acts of sodomy in the country. Interestingly, this was the basis for similar sodomy laws across regions where the British had control or dominion – so much that the number 377 has come to be associated with sodomy. The law has been interpreted to include even homosexual/transgender acts. Naturally, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in India is peeved. A hundred and fifty six years later, a nation debates if this law is retrograde and should be repealed from the IPC, thereby paving the way for the LGBT community to breathe easy.
I strongly believe that we, as a nation, should be more embracing when it comes to repealing laws that are redundant. The culture of the nation has changed over the course of the last century and a half that it borders on silly to have sections such as 377 of the IPC in our statute books. There are arguments that the concept of LGBT is alien to Indian culture. If culture is supposed to remain the same, irrespective of how things have transpired over time, then it is a misnomer. Culture is something that grows along with human kind, embracing the ebb and flow of time, taking in their perceptions and accommodating their needs.
I don’t understand how a matter such as homosexuality could be termed sodomy. The definition of scruples has also transformed from what it used to be centuries ago. Being attracted to a person of the same gender is not something one can control; it’s a reflection of one’s ingrained sense of sexuality. That is something others should respect, not abhor or condemn. If such a private feeling as sexuality is brought within the ambit of law as immoral or unethical (unless it’s rape or other forms of violent non-consensual behavior), that’s absolutely unfair and the law fails to discharge its primary responsibility of respecting the rights of all the citizens. The order of nature has changed and the law needs to have regard for that.
If two men or two women sleep together and they are punished for ten years as well as fined, isn’t the law spoiling their lives? Law may be blind but Government and Legislature are not – don’t they have a conscience to feel for the loss that people may suffer because a retrograde law imposed a certain punishment? The Honorable Supreme Court of India, had, in 2013 passed the buck to the Government to repeal/amend 377 but the Government chose not to do anything. The LGBT community is not a significant vote bank yet, so they have been turned a blind eye to.
It’s interesting to note that even religion abandons followers when it comes to 377. All religions are united in criticizing homosexuality; I wish they showed this unity on matters of all religious and national significance as well! I don’t know if scriptures specifically ban such acts; but even if they did, there is a question of who wrote the scriptures – undoubtedly, it was man! So we should rise above the scriptures and honor and venerate the individuality and sexual preferences of people. That is when religion becomes true to the tenets of religion and faith. Otherwise, we are being petty.
I’m glad that the honorable Supreme Court has agreed to form a constitutional bench to examine the issue with fresh eyes. One really hopes those eyes take in the true picture of what LGBT is all about; it’s not about immoral carnal desires, it’s a way of living much above body and flesh. It’s high time we shed our narrow- mindedness to give the LGBT community the esteem they richly deserve.