Men holding hands, emblem of the Supreme Court of India
Love Matters

Section 377: is it right to ban gay love?

By Roli Mahajan Monday, January 27, 2014 - 18:35
Indians in same-sex relationships find that once again their love is outlawed, with the reinstatement of Section 377. We asked six young professionals from Delhi and Bangalore for their thoughts on the Supreme Court ruling.

Arushi Garg is a 24-year-old lawyerI personally think ‘Naz’ is a horrific judgment. LGBT rights are contemptible "so called" rights and a whole chunk of our population is written off as a "miniscule" fraction – which just goes on to show how all people are equal, but clearly some people are more equal than others.

I think the judgment is indefensible – in what it does for the LGBT movement, in its abuse of legal theory and in the utter disrespect it shows to all of us as people looking to exercise our autonomy. It just shows us India's uneasy equation with sexual expression. The irony confounds me. We will tolerate and condone certain types of sexual violence – I'm thinking marital rape – but refuse to take a stand when it comes to mutually respectful sexual identities.

About Section 377

  • 1861 India’s British colonial rulers introduce Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, outlawing homosexual acts.
  • 1991 AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan launches a campaign to have Section 377 repealed.
  • 2001 The Naz Foundation, an HIV/AIDS activist NGO, challenges Section 377 in the Delhi High court.
  • 2 JULY 2009 The Delhi High Court finally overturns Section 377 on human rights grounds.
  • 11 DECEMBER 2013 Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya of the Supreme Court of India set aside the Delhi High Court judgement. The noted that parliament should decide on the future of the law.

Saurav (name changed) is a 29-year-old investment bankerI think that homosexuality is not natural. It’s forced upon people's minds. For example: in the army and jails due to the conditions being extremely difficult and the unavailability of the opposite sex people resort to such activities.

But with the media highlighting gays again and again, homosexuality is getting too much attention. It is influencing young minds by making “being gay” into a fashion statement. This also pressurizes young people who have less mental determination to become homosexuals for social or economic reasons.

This has to stop, so I support the Supreme Court’s decision.

Rishi (name changed) is a 23-year-old researcherJustice Singhvi, my friends are not criminals. They are not sexually deviant, they are not wrong. I am ashamed that the Court that I once thought of as the conscience of our country has let all of us down in this tragic way. Laws are often the precursor for societal change and you, Sir, have clearly missed out on an opportunity for bringing in greater and positive social change.

Riana (name changed) is a 27-year-old software engineerI have had the joy of exploring life without anyone telling me whether my natural emotions were right or wrong, 'filthy' or 'immoral'. And that was a freedom I took for granted until I learnt about 377 and found out that an entire population of innocent people did not have that freedom.

Oppressing diversity in anyway can only bring harm to the species at large. We are alienating an entire community and without reason, without the right. This isn't a discussion about being open or accepting but about removing another form of discrimination from our society!It takes all kinds to make this world and we need to embrace the differences – women, men, black, white, dwarfs, giants, gay, transgender, deaf, blind and straight.Cheena (name changed) is a 25-year-old social workerI disagree with the verdict. There is a move towards greater sexual freedom across the world and this verdict is clearly regressive. The power to define something and to deem something legitimate or illegitimate is reflective of the power relations that prevail in a society. Our elders have spoken and their views are out of sync with the reality.

Illegal is something that is hurtful and love doesn’t hurt. According to me what should be illegal is the denial of the opportunity to be free from fear about the way you want to express yourself. To have to suppress yourself and your being to suit laws is not healthy for any society.

Ankush Gupta is a 28 year old poetI wrote a poem to express my views about the judgement. Here are two verses from it:

I’m done with standing in front of the courts waiting;I’m done with the ‘male-bonding’ inside the courtroomsthat makes it illegal outside.I’m done with the ‘double standards’, done with the hypocrisy,with your colonial hangover!I’m done with explaining, with trying to prove my existence,my ‘being’.From now onI will just BE.Let them send the policeto keep an eyeon the fifty million of us:For you will see usin temples and mosques and churches,in offices and neighbourhoods and markets,in your homes,in your families,in your life.For we will still liveAnd we will still love.

UpdateOn September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised consensual sex between adults of same-sex and partially struck down Section 377. The court decided that the application of Section 377 to consensual homosexual sex between adults was unconstitutional, ‘irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary’.

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