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."

20 comments:

  1. And you are back!! and how!:))
    with a relevant post!:))

    yes this ruling will not make us magically enlightened all of a sudden as a society ..you are absolutely right about that..

    but it will mean less harassment from cops..less stigmatisation..more confdence among individuals ..and they will feel like human beings for a change instead of frekas the way our society makes them feel..
    ...

    yay! a big yay to that!!:))

    LOVEd the entire post and the way you said it all.

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  2. Very well written, and welcome!

    Yes you're very right how sexual preferences are now scientifically seen as a spectrum--totally heterosexual to totally homosexual--and neither of the two ends is seen as 'abnormal'.

    I'd commented on a couple of your previous posts, where my views were not exactly in agreement with yours :)

    TC.

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  3. Why not just leave everyone to himself/herself?

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  4. GAYS ROCK !!! :) Lesbians as well :D
    Shiney Ahuja Sucks, he is a loser, but nevermind, I was watching IBN7's special Live Telecast on 377 and Baba Ramdev was losing his temper :P
    It looked like he was burning in hell's oil on earth itself :)
    Gay Ho!

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  5. Nicely written. I'm yet to take a stand on this ruling coz I have my reservations. Actually one argument only. Rather it is fear. By legalizing homosexuality, Indian govt gave a clean chit to practice. That's OK with me. Every person has a right to choose who he/she wants to be with. But what I fear is what follows. With widespread awareness, young boys and girls, who usually would not think about it, will 'experiment'. That scares the living daylights out of me. What happens to our kids? What path do they take?

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  6. Indyeah:
    Always the first! Love ya!
    I was so so so proud of that interview of yours! You go, girl!

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  7. Ketan:
    Thanks for dropping in regularly. I really appreciate that.
    Honestly speaking, I did see your comments, but didn't comment on them coz I couldn't go thru them then. And then this break that I took. Will get back on them soon.
    I love comments that don't agree with things I say as much as those that do. Its always nice to hear of different perspectives, and relook at mine if I'm proven incorrect.
    Cheers! And do keep dropping in.

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  8. Mr. Chowla:
    Good question, Sir. Anyway, we can only create awareness, can't change anyone's mind!
    Thanks for your constant support, Sir! Its always good to see your comments.

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  9. Awesomeness, like I said before, worked with Nax for a very short insignificant period of time, but good to see this one go through

    Secondly, just to get the semantics right - the high court has legalized an activity, which happens to be non vaginal sex, it has not legalized homosexuality. Homosexuality is a natural phenomena whose roots lie in genetics/hormones etc (this remains unsubstantiated, but check out http://tv.gay.com/2009/06/john-barrowman-why-am-i-gay.html)

    Secondly, for whoever thinks being gay is 'unnatural' and against the order of nature please check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Against_Nature%3F

    Thirdly, deriving from point 2, being gay is not a choice, much like being left handed is not a choice

    Again, my 2 cents and a closing comment ( to quote George Michael) "I define my sexuality in terms of the people that I love"

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  10. Tarun:
    Thanks dear! Cheers to the amendment! Anyone - gays, lesbians, straight folks, transgenders - rocks as long as they do their own stuff without harming others.
    Shiney - the lesser said the better.
    ROTFL I watched that Baba v/s Celina catfight! Could literally see sparks flying off both. And Baba was just barking mad, as usual. My Dad made this priceless comment, "Remember, that's the guy who cures AIDS with Yoga!" LOL...

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  11. Yes Surbhi, frequency of my visiting your blog would be proportionate to your frequency of blogging. And I too am an atheist, and have dealt with a few issues related to atheism/rationalism. Though my take on the issue tends to be more from a personal/psychological perspective as against your, which tends to be based more on concrete events in vogue. You'll find those posts under appropriate tags like 'philosophy', 'atheism', 'God', 'morality', etc.

    If you find time and inclination, it'd be nice to know your personal experiences as a skeptic/atheist--more specifically, how you became one if you ever had been a theist (which is very likely being in India). Though, I've not done a similar post, might do in one of the coming days.

    TC.

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  12. BABA ROCKS!!! :D
    He was so pissed off.....

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  13. And when I finally did post a snap of my baby on the blog, you are no where to be seen!!!

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  14. Why (and How) did I miss this?

    As always your posts hit the nail on the head... And the strength with which you write!!! Phew! I at times wonder how frequently you change your keyboard.

    But then you add humour in betwee (though I fail to understand what exactly is wrong with being a lizard) In the middle of a serious post, this line just cracked me up...

    Ok I know I've been writing about you more than the post but I guess, you already know what I think about this by now :)

    Have now bookmarked you... Not to be missed :)

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  15. Yes you're very right how sexual preferences are now scientifically seen as a spectrum--totally heterosexual to totally homosexual--and neither of the two ends is seen as 'abnormal

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  16. Well, long time, no see. Welcome back, Surbhi. Excellent post, as usual. I was reminded of a conversation I had with a coworker. It went something like this:

    Him: the punishment is not enough! It should be made harsher.

    Me: Why?

    Him: Because we don't want gays on the street!

    Me: Speak for yourself.

    Him: Ah, so you like gay people.

    Me: Only if the fruitcake in question is a likable fellow.

    Him: But I dont't want my children to be influenced by their perverted ways! What if my son started acting like them?

    Me: If he is straight, he would continue to like women no matter how much he is exposed to gay culture. Sexual orientation comes naturally.

    Him: (with an air of finality) But it's against my religion.

    Me: The practice of which happens to be your personal choice. If I believed in a winged pig who forbade me to eat salad, it would be prudish of me, at the least, to stop you from eating it!

    Him: (slightly offended) You don't get it, it's against the order of nature.

    Me: And who decides the order of nature? A third person who has nothing to do with what two other people do in bed? How is it any of your business?

    Him: Of course it's my business! I am a part of the same society as they are!

    Circular argument is the best friend of the illogical man.

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  17. Nice .. a issue which need to be discussed .
    I too can understand that where where this "religious leaders" when a 9 year old girl is raped when a kid is burnt alive, when women are treated as sex slaves... where are they , why do they hide themselves then ??? why can't they speak out then .. why only with gay issue....

    Being gay is not unnatural like you said, it is mentioned in the ancient sculptures too .

    THe best part is todays generation is a lot more tolerant of sexual preferences and this would certainly make a change

    Keep Writing and SMiling ..

    Do read

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2008/08/hum-bhi-insaan-hain.html

    http://arnavspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/02/confession-of-victim.html

    They are written on similar issues..

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  18. I had left a comment here Surbhi!

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  19. Brilliant post Surbhi! LOVED it.

    I agree that religion has been used through ages... 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. Well pointed out!!

    And well said again! " the 'word of God' is never preached? Why, with a rape ever two minutes in Delhi,.."

    The tirade that rushes to the rescue of (their definition of) Indian culture is getting boring no doubt.
    And 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! LOL :)

    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.

    I just love this post.

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