Homosexuality is Not a Western Concept
In the December of 2013, when the Supreme Court of India had overturned the 2009 New Delhi High Court and re-criminalized intercourse between two same-sex individuals, the BJP had come out in support with a spokesman unabashedly stating, “we can’t bring western culture into our society and culture.” Continuing its uninformed preaching, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy remarked that he considered such intercourse “against Hindutva.” While the battle rages on in the apex court for the final time, let us make one thing clear: homosexuality is not a concept introduced in India by the west. It has always existed in the subcontinent and must be accepted.
Homosexuality Ornaments Temples
While everybody notices the intricacies of the sculptures of gods and goddesses adorning temples, they fail to realize that several of them are portraying eroticism. This eroticism is not limited to what is considered obscene in today’s society between two heterosexual lovers, but also includes, as in the famous Khajuraho, same-sex love. Women and men can be seen sexually romancing same-sex lovers; the latter is apparently more commonly found. While the motive behind placing them on such significant structures may be disputed, it becomes evident that same-sex love did very much exist.
Homosexuality in Epics
The second is scriptures, which may be epics or law-books. In the Padma Purana, two widowed women make love in the desperation of conceiving a child. In the more known Ramayana and Mahabharata, there are plenty of homosexual relations too! Hanuman describes seeing rakshas kissing other demon-women who have had sexual relations with Ravana. Krishna spends a night with Arjun’s son Aravan and after his death, mourns for him like a widow. While there are several other same-sex plots in heroic narratives, even the Kamasutra refers to homosexual activities.
Among the Muslims
Saleem Kidwai pens in his book, Same-Sex Love in India, “Homoerotically inclined men are continuously visible in Muslim medieval histories and are generally described without pejorative comment.” It is said that Mahmud Ghazni was revered among other things, for his immense love for Malik Ayaz, a slave who rose to the rank of General in the Sultan’s army. Centuries later, the nobleman Dargah Quli Khan wrote of male prostitutes openly dancing and soliciting in the bazaars in his narrative of Delhi, “Muraqqa-e-Dehli.” Even the Mughal king Babur wrote of his attraction to a boy in such a bazaar in his autobiography, Baburnama.
Homosexuality Needs to be Decriminalized!
It is undeniable that a handful of books of the law like Manusmriti mention penalization in case of same-sex intercourse. However, such penalization extends to (and is sometimes far harsher in the case of) errant heterosexual activities. In fact, Manusmriti reduces such a sentence to simply “bathing with one’s clothes on” in case the men belong to the upper caste; this is not a punishment, but simply a way to hide arousal in case it occurs. This is proof that the primary reason such activities were punished was not the same-sex factor, rather that they did not lead to procreation. Modern society no longer follows such rationale, for every couple using contraceptives would then have to be penalized. And yet, the law continues to be used to exclusively target and persecute homosexuals. Therefore, it must be removed. Moreover, earlier scriptures like the Vedas claim “Vikruti Evam Prakriti,” or “What seems unnatural, is natural,” which sounds remarkably close to acceptance of homosexuality. Several works present compelling case that ancient India did in fact accept homosexuality, including Amish Tripathi’s Immortal India. And if such an ancient book can profess such compassion, why can’t we, centuries later? But more importantly, if they didn’t accept homosexuality as the norm, why can’t we start now?
After many studies and surveys, it has been well-proven by now that homosexuality is not an aberration: it occurs across genders and geographies, even species! The only unnatural aspect of this entire issue is denying individuals the right to be who they are and who they choose to be that person with. India has always claimed itself to be a democracy which supports the rights of its citizens to preserve their identity, irrespective of their demographics. And yet, most Indians remain ignorant about the cause. An international trend portrays a positive change towards acceptance of gay parenting, while the country in question is far from even familiarizing itself with global concepts such as gender-fluidity. How can we launch ourselves into a future that is far more accepting, a future envisioned by our founding leaders, a future at par with the contemporary world, if a regressive law prevents us from changing mindsets, and lives, for the better?
Its Criminalization by the Colonial British
Last but not the least, the current law that penalizes individuals engaging in same-sex love wasn’t even framed by Indians! It is a legacy of the British instead motivated by Christianity’s hostility against homosexuality. The Offences Against the Person Act 1861, drafted by Thomas Macaulay, is now being paraded as Section 377. Why does this colonial law continue to exist in our democratic nation?
Promoting the Acceptance of Homosexuality
Though the government claims the Indian populace is not warming up to the idea, the widespread and extremely popular Pride Parades say otherwise. Nevertheless, there is much to do. Awareness programs are a must to lead a change in mindsets, especially by squashing myths about homosexuality. Public statements by everyone, from politic leaders to mystical babas, claiming that homosexuality is a disease to be cured need to be publicly condemned and further legal action must be taken. This includes shutting down all centres where such conversation practices take place. In the course of time, laws need to be made to enable same-sex couples to marry and adopt. Lastly, harassment and rape laws must be changed so as to accommodate cases wherein the gender of the victim or perpetrator does not hamper the registration of a First Information Report (FIR). We must not stop till no teenager has to be closeted!
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