Section 377 – A Question of Equality and Morality

Despite many socio-economic reforms since Independence, India still continues to be a conservative society in multiple aspects where sex and sexuality are still considered a taboo. Section 377 of IPC, which criminalises homosexuality, is a colonial archaic law that was introduced by British. Ironically, even the British have done away with this law in their own country decades ago, yet we haven’t been able to strike it down due to the protest of the religious bodies and the ones who deem homosexuality as a criminal offence.
It is only in recent years that some people, especially the youths, are blatantly coming forward to vociferously demand for the human rights of LGBT community. Otherwise, there is little to talk about the rights of homosexuals, as they have not only been subjected to utter public ignominy and ostracization but have been also categorised as the persons with disease and hormonal disorder.

There are people who consider every text of scriptures, written ages ago, as gospel truth. Further, if you question their claims and ask them for any logic or evidence for justification, they would always come up with only one argument that their religion doesn’t sanction the homosexual activities, hence it is a crime and completely condemnable.
What they don’t try to understand is that it is the nature of the evolution of human civilization that certain customs and norms, which could be relevant and apposite at times of their inception, have now become obsolete and redundant. It needs to be inevitably terminated with the passage of time to make the fabric of society more adaptable, inclusive, and progressive so that it can satisfy the requirements of the present day people and ensure them a life full of respect and dignity.

It is quite disheartening that we as a nation choose to criminalise homosexuality and look down upon homosexuals, even though they comprise a small yet significant chunk of our population. There are many instances of homosexuals clinging the ladder of success in various fields, thus contributing to the nation building process perhaps more than heterosexuals who look down upon them and trivialise their existence. Livemint notes, “Recently, after Congress President Rahul Gandhi hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament, the debate around the surprise embrace curve balled from being about love, hate and politics to one about toxic masculinity. Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh also went ahead to say that “Rahul Gandhi will have to think 10 times before hugging me,” in his very predictable, testosterone-fuelled response.” Evidently, such subtle instances of homphobia expressed and voiced by the leaders of our nation becomes a genuine reflection of the odd sense of dismissal and ignorance we have towards the sentiments of the LGBT community.

The Supreme Court recently reserved its verdict on the criminalization of homosexuality under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Although the five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has asked the parties to file written submissions in support of their claims by July 20, it’s quite disheartening that even after 12 millenia of civilization and a decade of unprecedented social, economic, and political growth, humanity still hasn’t gotten hang of the concept of basic human rights. It still reflects the moral prejudices of our British rulers who left us about 100 years ago and enables unscrupulous individuals to blackmail and persecute the LGBT community. It undermines our fundamental rights demonstrating that there is no space for one’s privacy in one’s own room. If making our own choices is the basic essence of being free, one can only wonder why we aren’t free to love the people we choose to love.

Coming to think of it, social change is more important than legal change in this country because even though the laws are fine in principle, they are useless until the viewpoint of the populace changes. Because even though we have very strong laws against dowry, caste based discrimination, violence against women, honour killings etc. all of these still happen rampantly.  Perhaps the true key to unlocking the constricted and biased mindsets that most of us in this nation are inclined to possess is by shirking off archaic rules and customs that try to define circumstances and parameters of how we are and aren’t supposed to love.

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