377 & beyond

WhatsApp Image 2018-11-04 at 05.28.11 (1)This write up is based on the notes I have taken while I was attending a seminar called dot issue by Essense Global at Government Model Engineering College, Cochin on 3rd November 2018.

The seminar moderated by Shahina Nafeesa, journalist and recipient of Chameli Devi Award was based on Indian constitution’s section 377 that deals with homosexuality.

The seminar consisted talks of Beena Aneesh, coordinator of South Asian Human Rights Association, Advocate Maya Krishnan, Professor Ravichandran C and Prijith P.K, founder of Queerythm LGBTIQ community.

On September 6th 2018, Supreme Court of India ruled that Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 377 is unconstitutional and thereby decriminalized consensual homosexual activities.

It was a historical judgment from Supreme Court of India that lauded the secular, democratic values of our constitution. It has given a sigh of relief to approximately 35-40 lakh people in our country who belong to queer category.

In reality, IPC section 377 not only effects queers. According to this law, which was imposed by British government in 1864, all sexual activities other than penovaginal sexual intercourse is against nature and law. So even heterosexual people who engage in sexual activities other than penovaginal sexual intercourse are criminals under this law.

So, the popular notion that homosexuality is the invention of westerners is wrong. Westerners are dominantly Catholics. Catholic church and Christianity is against homosexuality.

When we look upon the history of Section 377, we can observe that it is just a mere model of Britain’s Buggery Act of 1533.

According to Buggery Act, homosexual activity is an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. But after 1860, it has become unnatural sexual act against nature.

It can be seen that with the passage of time, the law undergone drastic changes. A law which criminalized an activity stating that it was against god became a law which punishes an activity which was against nature. Today, it is not even a law!

Sexualactivity among same gender is observed in various other animal species. There are evidence for the acceptance of homosexual relationships in Indian culture before colonization.

The talk discussed the life of Alan Turing, who helped Britain to win World War II by decoding German enigma code. And later when his homosexual relationship with a friend got exposed in public, he had been sentenced to chemical castration. But instead of undergoing chemical castration, he committed suicide by eating an apple injected with cyanide.

Today, Britain has apologized to Alan Turing by erecting statues of him in streets and campuses.

Another interesting example is the life of David Reimer. He was raised as a girl from childhood as he was a victim of a botched circumcision surgery. When he reached the age of 15, he realized that he was a boy and refused to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Later in life, being unsuccessful in marriage and business undertakings, he committed suicide.

From these life examples we can realize that homosexuality is not a choice of a human being. Our sexual orientation is not determined by the sex organ between our legs but by our brain between our ears. It is basically a cerebral stance.

Religions, especially Semitic ones condemns homosexuality. They consider it as a disease and gave birth to the misconception that Heteronormativity is the norm of the nature. They consider any sexual activity that doesn’t procreate is an act against god. Casteism, Racism and Patriarchy are also products of religion.

Today, with advancement of science and free thinking, Europe has changed. Ireland, once a country dominated by catholic church and Christianity is ruled by a queer president today.

Even though laws have been passed in favor of queers in our country, they are still living in a homophobic and trans-phobic society. They are still victims of mental and physical torture, isolation and rejection.

Time has ripen to change our mindset towards queers. We should realize that gender identity goes beyond the traditional gender binary concept and love is possible beyond genders. Gender identity shouldn’t be based on the sex organ of a human being.

Two questions from the audience caught my attention during the seminar.

First question: If a homosexual couple adopt a child, will that child receive the same love and affection from a mother and father, that is, male and female involved in a heterosexual couple?

Answer came from Shahina Nafeesa, the moderator.

Her answer is: It is possible to receive the similar love and affection which can be provided by a heterosexual couple. Our heterosexual family concept has a history of only 3000 to 5000 years. It is based on the religious concepts of patriarchy and matriarchy. It is only after the advent of capitalism, people started taking heterosexual family structure seriously. It is mainly for transferring wealth to progeny.

Today, capitalism is undergoing drastic structural transformation. After two or three generations, the concept of family itself can also undergo tremendous transformation. A society which is not giving equal treatment to every genders is not a complete society.

Second question: transgender people comes begging for money towards us and if we don’t give them money, they abuse us and sometimes, hurt us physically. Is this the reason we are homophobic or trans-phobic?

Answer: Transgenders are a section of people who are neglected and rejected in our society. They are being abused verbally and sexually for decades. So, it is not fair to expect proper respect or a decent way of behavior from them. To a great extent, our actions are responsible for their reactions.

Give and take respect is the best policy. Misconception or non-conception of facts is the root cause of homophobia and trans-phobia. It is high time Indian history should apologize to queers and accept them to our society.

The seminar also discussed that some psychologists are uploading videos on YouTube on how homosexuals can be treated. At some retreat centers run by religious communities, queers are forcefully raped and submit to electric shock treatment to transform them to heterosexual people.

A society and constitution which states that every citizen is equal, queers should also be considered equal. Reservation should be placed for LGBTIQ community to uplift their status in our society.

The seminar threw light on inter-sexuality, asexuality and pan-sexuality, the concepts I wasn’t aware of. I’m glad that organization like Queerythm are operating for the welfare of queer people. The helpline number of Queerythm is +91-9745545559

More seminars and awareness programs like this should be carried out all over our country. Only a society with scientific temper and rational thinking can become a queer friendly society. We should learn to respect the differences for peaceful coexistence.

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