Published on February 27, 2014
I Dare to Exist! Since time immemorial man has displayed a penchant for classification, vehemently establishing this in all forms, stages and walks of life. In ancient India people were classified into the varnas, followed by Carolus Linnaeus classifying humans into races like Europaeus, Asiaticus, Americanus and Afer. This passion for classification, the desire to place people in different hierarchies might have originated from man’s need to familiarize himself with this haphazard and multifarious world. But this idea has slowly taken the form of an obsession,
making him wary of anything that dares to be different. This paranoid homo sapien sees the world in black and white, right and wrong and stubbornly classifies everything as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’. The most recent victims of this paranoia are the LGBT community of India, whose right to love and express it has been insensitively criminalized by a relic from the colonial eraSection 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This archaic mindset that the Supreme Court of India has projected by reinforcing section 377 of IPC violates the right to equality. The Supreme Court has blatantly labeled the LGBT community as second-class citizens denying them fundamental rights; barring them from expressing the core of their personality. The fight put up by the LGBT community wasn’t just to demand the freedom to pursue physical pleasures, but to claim their place in the society; driven by the desire to belong and be accepted by their loved ones and the society as a whole. Delhi High Court’s decision to amend this antiquated law in 2009 allowed this community to shed their masks and embrace their true identity. We have witnessed this same judiciary uphold and expand rights of its citizens, then why do we still see the existence of section 377 – a natural prejudice from the Victorian era masquerading as a law in such a country.
There have been protests against apartheid, untouchability and male chauvinism across the globe and over the centuries. Many of these movements have drawn inspiration from India. Unfortunately the same country has now unabashedly chosen to continue the 150 year old tradition of oppression initiated by the colonizers who themselves have long amended their laws and embraced this community. The LGBT community has been exiled, castigated, castrated and ridiculed, their existence has been criminalized and their love termed as unnatural or worse a mental disorder. The Indian society and the judiciary condemn honour killings, but how different is this draconian law? Both are attempts by conservative communities to suppress those who dare to practice their right to freedom of choice. Both are attempts to classify love and its expression as legal or illegal, natural or unnatural by an stablishmentarian and orthodox society. So should we now compare the Indian judiciary to a Khap Panchayat? The indifference that greets the members of the LGBT community at every nook and corner, has long forced this community to live secluded lives. Moreover the usage and interpretation of the section 377 leaves huge scope for misuse and harassment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The act, under section 377, is a non-bailable cognizable offence which means the police can break into any house and pick up a couple they suspect of being homosexuals
under the claim of preventing a criminal activity. Since it is a non-bailable offence, getting the person out will depend on the wish and attitude of a judge. This decision by the Supreme Court will again push this community into a cycle of harassment, seclusion and loss of self-worth. It is pitiful that the longest constitution in the world fails to guarantee to its citizens the basic freedoms of choice, expression and security. The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold section 377 until amended by the parliament shows the discomfort our society still faces in dealing with this truth about human nature. This decision by the highest court in India comes across as a spineless attempt by a conservative system to turn a deaf ear to the pleas of the LGBT community and turn a blind eye to their existence. The Indian community today fails to understand that sex is a four letter word (starting with L), something courageously accepted, if not glorified by the ancient Indian society. According to me before extending freedom of speech, freedom of religion or equality, the basic right that every government must strive to bestow upon its citizens is the right to exist in accordance with their true nature. India aims to project itself as a progressive society and transform itself into a developed super power in the coming decades, but is development limited to infrastructure only?
Can a society aiming to capitalize on its human resource afford to be burdened by such parochial and illiberal notions? We have time and again accepted people of different religions, ethnicities and nationalities, aren’t we ready to embrace and add another unique shade to this multifaceted and colourful canvas called India? I guess we are. -Nikita Chakraborty
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