Jul 3, 2009

The Colours of Love, Hope and Freedom

... are these:

"The Constitution of India recognises, protects and celebrates diversity. To stigmatise or to criminalise homosexuals only on account of their sexual orientation would be against the constitutional morality."

The profoundness of this statement could be felt on Thursday - the day India took a giant (albeit belated) step towards true globalisation with the Delhi High Court delivering a historic judgment to amend a 149-year-old colonial law. The draconian law in question was Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises private consensual sex between adults of the same sex.

The biggest victory yet for gay rights and a major milestone in the country's social evolution, this historical step has made India the 127th country in the world to take the guilt out of homosexuality.

While all seemed well and Delhi was awash in rainbow colours of pride and hope, religious leaders across the nation instantly leaped on to the 'faith', 'morality' and 'God's will' bandwagon that they are so fond of hitching across national sensibilities. It was no surprise at all to hear them scream hoarse about how homosexuality is against the word of God. From the Crusades to the Holocaust, from the Partition to the Taliban, from 9/11 to Naroda Pattiya, the 'word of God' has been invoked to justify the most horrendous crimes against humanity. Of course, there are plenty of other convenient reasons too - gender, race, language, colour, land, water, oil, and the like. We have never yet found it difficult to explain why we hate each other. Homosexuality is just one more reason on the list, and currently carries the most brownie points.

People are very inclined to set moral standards for others. No surprises there. And we can very well say it for everyone - including ourselves. We love dispensing advise, and love to see it being acted upon even more. No harm there, I say. Everyone is free to preach/advise to others what they feel is right. Trouble begins when we begin to believe what we do/say/eat/drink/wear is right, and therefore should be adopted en masse without further ado. And when we coerce people into that adoption, covertly or overtly.

Now let us for a moment throw reason out the window and pretend that homosexuality is a sin. If that were the case, then God must punish these sinners in his/her/its own way - by making them boil in scalding oil in hell, or turning them into lizards in their next birth (though I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with being a lizard), or whatever is proscribed by the religious texts. Who are we mere mortals to act on his/her/its behalf? Let humans do what they will, and let God do what he/she/it must. Like the inimitable Robert Frost so wisely said, "I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his/her own way."

Now, by the same logic, we can let other sins like theft, deceit, greed, rape and murder go unpunished. But we don't, citing the reason that these are horrendous crimes against humans and should be punished in a fitting way in order to curb them. How come here the 'word of God' is never preached? Why, with a rape ever two minutes in Delhi, has a religious leader never come out on the street to condemn how maligning a woman's dignity through force is against God's will? Why, with Dalits and supposedly 'backward' classes being denied of a respectful existence, do religions not preach how every human is a creation of the same God who wouldn't have created a human worth being looked down upon merely on account of his/her name or profession?

Then, there are the eternal bigots who deem anything and everything that does not suit their misguided (or, heavens forbid, very calculated) agendas as being 'against Indian culture'. I, like many of us out there, have begun to find this tirade boring and repetitive now. Say, it has lost its charm after a series of recurring (and rapid) utterances. So much so, that next time they do come up with something that really IS against Indian culture, they'll be paid no heed. Just like that fabled boy who screamed 'wolf' everytime he wanted to make his presence felt.

I fail to understand how a law that was introduced by British colonial invaders can even be seen in the context of Indian culture, whether acceptable or otherwise. Section 377 has nothing - I repeat, nothing - to do with Hinduism (which for all means and purposes is used interchangeably with Indian culture today) or Islam or Christianity or any other religion. The irony truly is that while the Britons have changed their corresponding legislations, we in India are still clinging on to it for dear life. How, if homosexuality is a Western import, does it find a mention in that most ancient works of Indian literature (and culture) - the Kamasutra? How have figurines describing homosexuality, bisexuality and even transgendered humans etched themselves into the walls of Khajuraho? As far as my understanding goes, neither of these comes from the West. Surprise, surprise!

What really IS a part of Indian culture is its inclusiveness. We have witnessed all manners of people coming to India - the Aryans, the Mughals, the Britons - and India has taken each and every one of them into her fold. India has always taken the best out of those who came to her - art, music, cuisine, lifestyle. When we found the British cuisine too bland for our tastes and rejected it (unlike the spicier and tastier Mughal cuisine which typifies India in the West), why not similarly shun unpalatable laws?

Also, the absurd notion that homosexuality exists only in humans (and that too the 'elite', whatever that means). As a matter of fact, homosexual and bisexual behaviour has been studied and proved, with documented evidence, in several species of birds and animals, including penguins. Moreover, there is almost unanimous medical and psychiatric opinion that homosexuality is not a disease or a disorder but is simply another expression of human sexuality.

And finally, the stereotype that homosexuals are paedophiles, do drugs and have AIDS. That, more than anything else, sounded extremely dangerous to me because it comes not from religiously- or politically-motivated people, but educated and sane individuals like you and me. I'll just say that like every engineer is not a unromantic nerd and every straight man does not lech at girls and every woman in jeans is not wanting to be molested, every homosexual does not do drugs and rape kids. Why, Joseph Fritzl, as far as I remember, is not a homosexual - and he is a paedophile if there ever was one. Neither is Shiney Ahuja - and he doesn't do drugs either, for the record.

However you may accuse me of being a party-pooper, this court ruling still does not translate, of course, into social acceptability. We cannot possibly have suddenly become an enlightened society. There remains a lot of homophobia, stereotypes of gays and lesbians will abound in popular culture (read media), many young people will still discover that their sexual preference does not conform to the society's approved norms, LGBT people will still be confused and lonely and angry. But being so is not illegal any more. And that certainly is a big deal.

Also, the ruling still can prosecute coercive homsexual acts or homosexual acts with a minor. That’s just fine - the same applies to heterosuxual acts too. Just as long as consenting adults can do what they want.

The last word, really:

"The expression of sexuality requires a partner, real or imagined. It is not for the state to choose or to arrange the choice of partner, but for the partners to choose themselves."

So Did You Miss Me?

Hi there, everyone! I disappeared for a while, and without letting anyone know. My sincere apologies.

Its been an unintended break, longer than expected. But like it tends to, life intervened. I’ve been busy with work, practically trying to keep my job in the dark economic times. Work aside, I have been suffering from the worst writer's block ever. Maybe the turmoil at work had something to do with this.

I promise to be up and shining soon, but it may take a little more time so don't forget to watch this space (and my other one too). I failed to write the last few weeks, which have been some of the most turbulent in my professional life. This, I confess, was totally deliberate. It just felt like I wasn’t doing justice to my writing if I wasn't writing with my mind and heart in it, and both these critical components of my being were kind of preoccupied with seemingly mundane issues. Nonetheless, enough excuses.

If there's one thing my being absent from the blogging scene has shown me, it is how much my writing is valued and appreciated, even eagerly awaited, by my friends on the blogosphere. Many thanks and a zillion hugs to my bestest friends here, especially Solilo, Indyeah, IHM, Masood (in no particular order). And everyone else who patiently awaited my return and regularly visited this space to check on me. I am ashamed to admit I'd actually thought my friends would have lost interest in my blogs since I'd not written for so long. I'm so very touched to see they are as loyal to my blogs as I am to theirs, even when I never announced I wouldn't be writing for a while. Thank you.