Right to sexual orientation lies solely with the individual, not the government

(Published in The Times of India: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/shaira-mohan-blog/)

Imagine that you grew up with a family that didn’t love you or respect you like the other children because you were ‘different’.

Imagine that you grew up in a society that constantly looked down on you, made fun of you and treated you like an alien among humans on their planet. And you are also often subject to many kinds of violence and harassment.

And then imagine that you fall in love but the law of your country forbids you to be with or marry this other person. The penalty, if you do so, is life imprisonment.

Why? Because you are a boy attracted to a boy or a girl attracted to another girl. Because you are defying the acceptable norms of Indian society and have dared to live your life the only way you know how.  And now you are a black mark on the white chalkboard of society.

Homosexuality in India is a topic so taboo that it has crept its away into not just our fastidious society but also the Indian Penal code in the form of Section 377, deeming sexual intercourse with a person of the same sex punishable by law. Interestingly, historical data and sacred religious Indian texts have clearly indicated that homosexuals were never considered inferior or unacceptable right up till the 18th century. It was not till the late 1800s that the IPC introduced Section 377 during the British rule.

Fast forward to 2009 when the Delhi High court showed some signs of progress by turning this ruling around citing consenting adults as the acceptable cause – an action while certainly late, definitely not too little. But it was the Supreme Court in 2013 that pushed the matter over the cliff by reversing this ruling and by doing so pulling us back in to the black hole of regression. A democratic façade of a dictatorship that snatches away what should only be an individual’s personal right and choice. No one else’s.

So, it is appalling to read about doctors in Delhi trying to ‘cure’ homosexuality by using electric shock therapy – a procedure they call ‘Conversion Therapy’ that involves a serious of nauseating drugs, electric shocks and talk therapy that has proved to cause depression, anxiety and even suicides. The fees, of course, are dubiously high.

One of these doctors, capitalising on an incident of suicide by an AIIMS doctor who blamed her actions on her gay husband, has found his business booming after this incident hit the news stands. Others claim to be veterans in the field carrying on the practice for over fifteen years and taking up-front cash advances.

The gross exploitation by these medical practitioners of the gullible and vulnerable is alarming and saddening in equal measure.There have been a number of attempts in the recent past to repeal this archaic and regressive ruling by our government but the fight for the win has a long way to go. Dr. Shashi Tharoor’s recent attempt to pass a bill for decriminalization of homosexuality was shunned by the Lok Sabha forcing him to initiate a petition on social media. The fact that transgender people have been exempt while the LGB (Lesbian, gay, Bisexual) community has been put under this spotlight is further mind-boggling and extremely hypocritical.

India’s vote in the United Nations General Assembly in March last year against the extension of marriage rights to Indian homosexual couples employed by the UN casts further shadows on the sad reality and plight of our LBG communities, not just within the country but also abroad.

How India can hope to progress while curbing the growth, personal progression and welfare of a large percentage of its own citizens is a question that needs to be pondered long and hard. Questions like why the idea of same sex marriages and couples makes us squirm and pass laws against them need to be asked and answered. And then we need to wake up and realise that these are after all, people too. Our people. People who need to be accepted and respected in our society just like the rest of us.

We fight the fight against feminism and women empowerment vehemently everyday. But we forget about those who are fighting the biggest battle of us all.

Increasingly many political parties and sections of society seem to be coming to the fore and voicing their stand against this gross miscarriage of justice. But it hasn’t yet been enough. More needs to be done. Much more. Sadly these mindsets are entrenched in the older generations that consider the very idea of same sex attractions abhorrent. Their zero-tolerance for their own children and relatives who dare to ‘come out of the closet’pushes many over the edge and we read about their suicides in the news.

This has to stop.

Homosexuality, just like heterosexuality to our very own ‘Hijras’ that ironically have been deemed acceptable by our society, are all simply variants of human sexual orientations. Not any kind of disease or disorder. These are people who belong in our society just like you and I. It is high time our law and order welcomes them too.



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