Thursday, June 18, 2009


I think 377 may be removed any time now, may be next month when the courts open after summer vacations or a little later. The hearing in the Delhi High Court was over in October, 2008 and only verdict has to come. The proceedings and the attitude of the judges during the last 4-5 days of hearing made it clear that 377 will be removed. They only have to see that there is no law and order problem the day verdict comes. They will have to make some police arrangement before verdict is announced. The court might inform the government in advance to make suitable arrangements.


However, I do not think that removal of 377 is going to help Indian gay community in any way. Indian homosexuals will not be able to surface out and start living with their partners openly after 377 is removed. Homosexuality will keep operating as a hidden and underground sub-culture in India as usual. In fact, 377 has already been removed in practice. The government of India is not enforcing it now. They allow flavoured condoms meant for oral sex to be manufactured and marketed openly, they install condom vending machines in military barracks for soldiers who have anal sex with each other since they remain away from their wives for prolonged periods, all gay sites remain openly accessible in India, gay parties openly allowed in metros, gay men remaining openly involved in sexual activities in city parks in Mumbai when cops turning a blind eye to them and so on. IPC 377 now exists on paper only.  Whether we remove it from paper or not is immaterial. The Sri Lankan Government has even said to its gay community that we are not enforcing law banning anal sex, so they can have anal sex if they want.


What we want is the acceptability of homosexuality in India which will come through education. The government must publicize the findings of medical science about homosexuality in India through newspapers, radio, TV etc. and other means of mass communication. The government must heavily advertise that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and it is a normal human behaviour. The Government should also launch special drives so that married gay men come out in the open and take divorce from their wives. Making same-sex Marriage Law is the first step in creating the acceptability of homosexuals in the society. Nothing less than this will work. Nepal's Supreme Court has already ordered Nepal Government to make Same-sex Marriage Law within 6 months. Since 6 months are already over, somebody might now file a contempt petition in the court to remind the Government to make the law. Nepal is presently going on under political turmoil; otherwise the law might already have been made by now.


Removal of 377 only helps in establishing the existence of male homosexuals in the society. The Government of India has already accepted our existence but a common man has yet to do so. Previously, the Government of India was also not recognising the existence of homosexuality in the society. However, after AIDS came into picture, the government had to do it. Now, if not all then at least those government documents and reports which are prepared in connection of HIV and AIDS prevention work always use two words together - prostitutes and homosexuals (they have coined the word 'MSM' for homosexuals but they never use the words 'MSW' or 'WSM' for themselves). It shows that the government of India has accepted the existence of homosexuals on earth. However, a common man is yet to do so categorically. So far a common man on the street thinks that there are some men who take young boys to deserted spots and they rape them. A common man also knows that there are some men in the society who want that another man performs anal sex on them. A common man thinks that these two types of men are known as homosexuals and they suffer from a mental disease. A common man also thinks that the number of such homosexuals is very small in the society, just one in lakhs. However, all this information in informally available to a common man. He has picked it up from no formal source.


When we remove 377, a common man will come to know in a formal way about the existence of a class named 'MSM' in the society, just like the government has accepted it now. However, besides establishing the existence of MSM's, nothing more will be accomplished by removal of 377. A common man will continue hating homosexuals, as he does now. When we remove 377 as a measure to prevent AIDS, the common man on the street will think that the govt. had to do this since homosexuals are an unavoidable evil and we shall have to tolerate them since we cannot eliminate them. Homosexuality will be thought like prostitution. We are also on our path to legalise prostitution since it has been found that prostitution cannot be stopped by any means so it is better to legalise it. Prostitution has been accepted by the society as an unavoidable evil. By removal of 377, we will declare homosexuality also as an unavoidable evil. In fact, the Planning Commission has already recommended to the Government of India in its report that both prostitution and homosexuality be legalised to prevent AIDS. I consider it as an ultimate insult to me that I am equated with a prostitute simply because I have a desire to live with a man rather than a woman in my house. But I am helpless.


A common man's hate for homosexuals may increase by the removal of 377. He may think that while AIDS is a menace for everybody, it has proved to be a boon for homosexuals. Please also keep in mind that removal of 377 will also permit anal sex between a man and a woman. Since most heterosexual men consider such anal sex as a severe perversion, the people will simply keep on wondering why the government has removed 377 which was a perfect way to stop pervert acts.


Further, removal of 377 is no help in establishing the existence of lesbians in the society.


Removal of 377 is also no help in telling a common people that the number of homosexuals and bisexuals combined together is not as small as he thinks; on the contrary, it is about 10% of the whole population.


Removal of 377 is no help in telling the people that homosexuality is not a synonym of anal sex. It will fail to tell a common man that homosexuality is a complete way of life and not just anal sex. It also fails in telling the society that there is a large section of male homosexuals which does not like to indulge in anal sex. Our aim is to tell the people that just like there are some heterosexuals who want to live with one partner under the same roof throughout their life and want to take care of each other in their thick and thin and want to share with their partner everything which they have, similarly there are many homosexuals also who want to do just this. Our aim is to tell the society that just like there are some heterosexuals who want that their relation with their partner is recognized by the society and the government of the country in which they live and they get legal, financial, and medical rights of marriage, similarly there are some homosexuals who also want all these same things. Finally, as homosexuals, we want to come out of our closet and we want to declare that we feel pain when we are forced to pretend to be heterosexuals all our lives and when our secret that we are born with an alternate sexual orientation just burns with us in our pyre. Removal of 377 is no help in this.


I am against removal of 377 unless it is also accompanied by making of Same-sex Marriage Law which I consider is the first step in creating our acceptability in the society. I believe that just a plain removal of 377 is an insult to us, it equates us to prostitutes and it will do more harm than good to us.

Nothing much is going to happen after 377 goes. There are some gay organizations in India who are promoting and distributing condoms among gay men. Presently, the organizations have to keep a low profile in the sense that they cannot put signboard in front of their offices. After 377 is removed, they will come out openly and seek donations from the government, condom manufactureres, people involved in AIDS prevention work and some other sources by publishing advertisements in newspapers. 90% of these donations they will pocket and remaining 10% they will actually use for condom distribution.
Needless to say that the gay men will come to these organizations under deep secracy to receive condoms. They will never tell their parents or wives that they are gay and they are going to a AIDS prevention camp, unlike the way a normal husband-wife go to a family planning camp.
During gay pride parades in Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata etc., some of the participants wear face masks. Is that the distiny and is that the fate of gay community which we are envisaging?

--- On Mon, 15/6/09, <> wrote:



In India, the State now speaks in many tongues on homosexuality. Different ministries have come up with bafflingly different positions on the matter. So far, on the 'reading down' of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the archaic law that ends up criminalizing adult consensual homosexuality in India), the courts have sounded progressive, the health ministry encouraging, and the law and home ministries regressive. The regressiveness is alarming, not only because of the astonishing ignorance, indeed blindness, of its "India is not ready for it yet" position, but also because of the schizophrenic divide regarding sex and sexuality within the State that shows up when the health ministry's view is compared with those of the law and home ministries. Yet the health ministry's 'positive' stance is founded on fear and caution rather than principled thinking — on the same sort of logic that underlies action against swine 'flu or SARS: if the law is not changed, then it will be difficult to stop people from dying of AIDS. So when the law minister makes vague public noises to the effect that some bits of the IPC "may be" outdated, and Section 377 "could be" one of these bits, then it really does not amount to very much. But by now, hanging on to every word that the State lets fall on the matter, and then trying to make sense of them, have become part of the entire struggle for legal and social change that the movement against Section 377 has become in India.

This movement remains largely confined, though, to those who are victimized by Section 377 — that is, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, mostly among urban (and sometimes provincial), middle-class Indians. Annual parades and candle-lit vigils, again mostly in the big cities and often (though not always) associated with HIV/AIDS, are when this community is given some visibility in the media, although of a stereotypically colourful kind. Or when big-budget Bollywood indulges in a bit of innocuous same-sex fun, people talk about it for a while, usually with light-hearted titters, as if chatting about exotic lifestyle options. But with food, weddings, cricket and elections being the nation's chief obsessions, the closet rather than the courtroom is where the matter is invariably laid to rest.

Why does it remain virtually impossible to figure out what the nation's leaders think about men having sex with men, or women having sex with women? Does the Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Prime Minister's Office have a view on homosexuality? Would the Gandhis, particularly the younger ones, speak up for it? What does Agatha Sangma, the Lok Sabha's youngest minister, think about it? How does Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee feel about the sexual orientation of his beloved Proust? All these right-thinking people would not think twice before speaking up against untouchability, apartheid or female circumcision. So why this silence, or slipperiness, about this other, universally acknowledged, form of discrimination?


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