The debate on the legality of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code did not really take place in India until a few decades ago and even if it did, it was latent. In a traditional Indian society, public discussions on sexuality and sexual preferences are still a taboo. People are hesitant in talking about anything that is remotely related to sex. However, Supreme Court did decide to deliberate on the legitimacy of a law that effectively criminalizes homosexuals and other sexual minorities.
In 2013, when the conflict arose, the court threw the question of Section 377 back to the Parliament saying it was not the court but the elected parliamentarians who must take up the responsibility of changes required in the law. Politically, no one ever takes up the duty to bring about the change. You will never see any political party willingly supporting LGBT rights during the election because they fear alienation of mainstream voters.
According to the historical database, Section 377 of the IPC dates back to 1860 when India was a British colony. In fact, it was introduced by them. If evidence is to be believed, homosexuality appeared in India in Hindu scripture, Hindu temples, and daily life, prior to colonization. In pre-colonial India, same-sex relationships were accepted and honoured. Lesbianism was common among wealthy royal women. No doubt, it looked different than modern-day LGBT relations but that existed as a result of highly patriarchal culture. It was only after the British arrival that the views on gender and sexuality began to differ.
Ironically, England eventually began to accept homosexuality started to accept homosexuality with the passing years and soon marriage between two consenting adults was legalized. And somehow, India is still stuck onto the same western introduced and influenced law. It is high time that the legislation and the judiciary recognize the rights of these individuals on equal front and let go of this law to march towards more progressive ones.
At the outset, we also cannot overlook the shift that has visibly occurred in the mindset of a fairly large number of people. Maximum youth population is extremely accepting of LGBT community. Their participation is awareness campaigns and pride parade is a clear sign to progressive and liberal society.
Aishani, a 15-year-old from New Delhi, the student of Pathways took up the taboo topic of LGBT as her major project with an aim of creating positive awareness amongst the population of the capital. She even conducted a survey, wherein some results were shocking while others were quite expected.
The survey population included all age groups in nearly equal numbers. On being asked if any person known to them was a member of LGBT community, the response was clearly in two opposite halves.
It was accepted by a majority of the population that they do not look down upon the LGBT community and believe that same-sex marriage should be legalized in India but there still exist nearly 21.2% people who either deny the same or do not have a clear say in it.
Around 75% of the population accepts that they are comfortable around LGBT community while the remaining are not or do not know.
On being asked for the reason for their support to the community, around 87% people said that a gay or a lesbian should also have the right to be with who they love like the rest of us. While others who were not in support of the same had religious tolerance as their reason. Surprisingly, 22.6% believe that a child should be nurtured by the love of both mother and father and hence same-sex marriage is not a good idea.
It is astonishing to see that 70.2% of the population is in affirmation to readily accept a family member who belongs to LGBT community. Such acceptance is worthy of being noted.
Another interesting question put up by Aishani in the survey intended to place the general public in the shoes of a gay or a lesbian to give an answer for the same. The results for the same were varied. On being asked about the best way to tackle the negative views that exist in the society against the LGBT community, 66% of the people believe we need to educate the orthodox members of the society. The laidback attitude of certain people is one huge drawback. 62.1% of the people believe that more of awareness campaigns must be organized to educate and inform the people.
As a 10th standard student, it is incredible to see how Aishani is trying her own bit to bring about recognition and understanding in the society to help the LGBT community. We need to realize that if it’s not today, its five years from now or maybe ten, but this law has to go. It has to go because it is a colonial baggage that has outlived its relevance. A positive and non-judgmental attitude in this heterosexually dominated community will help our friends go a long way whilst relieving the distress.