The Supreme Court on Monday decided to revisit its 2013 judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. However, while the SC has people elated by giving new hope for LGBTQ+ rights, the question is, is India even ready to welcome homosexuality?
A three-judge bench, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, observed that, “A section of people or individuals who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear. Choice can’t be allowed to cross boundaries of law but confines of law can’t trample or curtail the inherent right embedded in an individual under Art 21 of Constitution.”
Shortly after the judgement was passed, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy remarked that gays who “flaunt” their sexuality, need to be punished. “As long as they don’t celebrate it, don’t flaunt it, don’t create gay bars to select partners it’s not a problem,” Swamy said.
Speaking about the “genetically handicapped”, Swamy added, “In their privacy what they do, nobody can invade but if you flaunt it, it has to be punished & therefore there has to be #Section377 of the IPC.”
@GentleGawker : Issue is not respect. We respect handicapped persons. Homos are genetically handicapped
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) June 30, 2015
Needless to say, this is hardly the first time a person of such stature has made such a homophobic comment.
Persecution of Transgenders
Despite being granted a ‘third gender’ status, transgenders continue to be ostracised and persecuted in the society. According to a Swasti Health Resource Centre study — conducted between April and October, 2015 — four out of ten transgenders face sexual abuse before the age of 18. Out of the 2,169 respondents who participated in the study, 781 and 802 respondents recalled experiencing sexual and physical violence respectively, while 1,228 reported being emotionally abused.
Attitude Towards Same-Sex Relations
In contemporary India, people are highly repulsive to the idea of homosexuality, despite it being quite acceptable in the medieval era. According to a CSDS-KAS survey of 6,122 respondents, 61 percent of the youth deemed same-sex relationship wrong, and only 14 percent of the respondents were found to be approving of it.
Demographics of Homophobia
According to the survey, age is a major factor when it comes to being accepting of homosexuality. While nearly 30 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds were accepting of homosexuality, the figure dropped to 20 percent when we move up to the 30 to 34-year-old age group.
Additionally, urbanity also influenced how homosexuality is perceived. Interestingly though, youth in rural parts of India were found to be more accepting of homosexuality (29 percent) as compared to those living in big cities (21 percent).
The Religious Facet
Often while debating against homosexuality, people argue religion, listing same-sex relationships as a sin. However, as per the survey, a person’s religiosity positively effects their acceptance of homosexuality. Over 29 percent of the youth, who identified as “highly religious”, approved of a love affair between two individuals of the same sex, while only 19 percent of the non-religious crowd approved of it.
“Western World Phenomenon”
Another major issue we need to combat before we can hope to welcome homosexuality is treating it as a “western world phenomenon”. Ancient temple structures spread across India, featuring half-man, half-woman characters and homoerotic individuals, are proof enough that LGBTQ+ has long been an element of India’s history.
Yet, nearly half the young population in India believes that homosexuality is more of a western import, a 2016 ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey stated.
Are we there yet?
There have been major global advances towards curbing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. However, India has fairly been failing to keep up with the pace. The survey also recognised that 31 percent of the Indian youth believes same-sex relationships should continue to be a criminal offence.
In a country where homosexuals are considered a separate, foreign fragment, where they are still forced to live inside the closet lest they be abused or worse, doing away with Section 377 of the IPC is hardly expected to change people’s attitudes towards the community. So, the moot question is, are we there yet?