To be honest, people are downright confused about sex and sexuality, especially in India. Gender identity is very much different from sexual orientation. Binary genders and transgenders tell about sex, while being gay, lesbian, pan, etc tell about sexuality. People often get confused and thus cannot differentiate between these two separate categories. In India, to be a part of LGBTQ+ community, is still a struggle to break the stereotypes of hetero-normativity and be an inclusive part of society.
Decriminalization of Section 377
On September 6, 2018, a historic judgement was made by a bench of five judges of the apex court who gave their judgement in favor of the LGBTQ+ community and decriminalized section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC). The supreme court ruled that consenting intercourse between two adults of same sex is not crime.
Before SC made the verdict, people belonging to Indian LGBTQ+ community lived double lives in fear of identified as a criminal or unacceptance by society and of course in fear of facing discrimination, prejudices and bullying. SC mentioned in this historic judgement, “[C]onsensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice.”
The judgment of decriminalization of Section 377, was a historic benchmark for the Indian Judiciary. They were able to set a new paradigm of fundamental LGBTQ rights in India. The court even recognized an individual’s sexual orientation as biologically “natural and inherent”, and not a matter of choice.
History of Section 377
Section 377 says it is a punishable crime if the ‘carnal intercourse’ is done ‘against the order of nature’. Section 377 is a toxic part of IPC which was enacted during the British regime. In this context, it should be kept in mind that IPC was neither God’s words nor made by Indians. These laws cannot be immutable in order to cope with ever-changing social, cultural and economical norms.
In 2017, Justice Chandrachud noted in particular that the “[r]ight to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by [A]rticles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”.
Life after Section 377 decriminalized
It is 2021, and still the LGBTQ+ community is struggling to receive approval from the society. They still do not have the rights a citizen of India has. Although the judgment clearly stated that LGBTQ+ members can now enjoy their lives in their personal space however they want. They won’t be judged or penalized for living their lives on their own terms. But the judgment still hasn’t included LGBTQ marriage or adoption.
LGBTQ members can enjoy consensual sexual intercourse but cannot get married or cannot adopt a child together. If they want to adopt a child, they’ll have to live apart. The LGBTQ community still has to suffer the discrimination which a heterosexual couple does not face on the grounds of ambiguous inheritance, family planning, life insurance policies, tax planning, etc.
Decriminalizing section 377 could not change the mindset of society about homosexuality. Homosexuality has always been a taboo in India. Being a gay in India means facing violence and discrimination. Struggles of people belonging to LGBTQ community in India are real. Along with society’s prejudices, LGBTQ people in India suffered psychologically, which ultimately violates their right to dignity and freedom.
Society’s approach towards Homosexuality
Acceptance from society is still a far-fetched dream for the LGBTQ people, and it is more difficult for a middle-class person. Homosexuality in India is still a forbidden act, as the mindset of people has not changed.
BJP leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy gave his statement on the verdict, homosexuality is against Hindutva and a disease. He added, the government should invest in medical research and see if they can find a cure for it.
LGBTQ youths are prone to be suicidal because of the day-to-day harassment they have to face. So called heterosexual literate people still call them as ‘hijda’ and see them as a disgrace to the society. They either stay closeted until it drains them off or they take the easy way out, suicide.
Stereotyping Gay in India
First, gay men do not receive support from society, then to top that, mainstream Bollywood movies also show them as stereotyped comic relief.
People still stereotype gay in India by generalizing their choice of clothes. Standing in 2021, people still have misconceptions about how gay men dress up. Unlike Bollywood movies’ portrayal of gay men always dressing in colorful ribbons, dupattas, furs or a dress of a style we have never seen before. Gay men mostly typically dress like any normal person. Because, for the sake of God, GAY people are NORMAL.
A video I saw of a lesbian couple where one of them wore a pair of shirt and trousers. She had a short hairstyle and people pointed out that she dressed like a man because she was attracted to men. There are no hard and fast rules for dressing up! Anyone can wear anything if they feel comfortable wearing that. Even celebrities like Kim Taehyung, Harry Styles or Ranveer Singh breaking these norms of clothing based on gender.
‘The way of talking’
Gay men do not talk gay, because there is no such thing as ‘gay talk’. The blame is on the media, of course. They show gay men always talking animatedly, with strange hand gestures or extra dramatically. Gay men don’t do that normally. (You might see a few on social media to do that, but mostly they were running after negative publicity. Because everyone knows how toxic social media could be and everyone is running after fame there.) Like any other person, gay men also talk logically because logic is inbuilt in every human brain (it’s a different thing that many don’t know how to use that).
‘Homosexuality is a choice’
People are so ignorant (the word dumb is more suitable though) to say/think that homosexuality is a choice, or worse, a disease. They think homosexuals can change their sexual orientation in just a click. People are so prejudiced about homosexuality in India that they seek for cures if their children come out as gay. They do pujas, burn incense sticks and in some extreme cases, they wed them off hoping marriage will cure this disease. Being a gay in India means you decide your sexuality after a certain age.
Lack of awareness about sexual orientation
- People are ignorant towards LGBTQ community because they have a lack of awareness about sexual orientation. According to them, heteronormativity is the only “order of nature”. But someone’s sexual orientation can not be against the law of nature, because it is inherent and not a choice.
- People are so insensitive about this subject that they have almost normalized that men are equal to masculine, while women must be feminine. If a man is not manly enough, they get bullied and ridiculed with no one stepping up to stop this nonsense. People simply let it happen, thinking this is the right thing to do.
- People often called the gay people ‘hijda’ because that consider they are disgrace to human race. Even people offer help by saying, ‘it is only a phase, it will pass.’
- Just yesterday, while surfing through facebook posts, I stumbled upon a short make up tutorial video done by a man, and the whole comment section was overflowing with hatred about how he was being a girl or ‘hijda’. People have normalized this concept that makeup is only for girls while make up actually is used for different purposes. It can be for protecting skin, enhancing your appearance, or simply for making you confident. Then how is it only for women? People who want to feel confident in makeup, do makeup, and people who don’t feel the need of it do not use it. It is as simple as that.
Lack of family support
First of all, a large scale of parents does not support homosexuality in India. Parents get ridiculed when children come out with their sexual orientation. Staying closeted and not being able to express is pretty draining. Even in 2021, people see LGBTQ people of India as outcasts.
Mostly parents are concerned about grandkids. They get stressed thinking how will they have grandkids if their children are homosexuals.
It is 2021, and LGBTQ community still is a prejudice in India. Not only the homophobic society, but the government also makes discriminating rights about the LGBTQ people. The LGBTQ rights are not limited to coming out of closet or accepting own sexual orientation or society’s acceptance, but it also includes the rights of marriage and adoption. The LGBTQ community has come a long way, but they still have a lot to achieve.