How new is homosexuality to India??
Whether it is a Tinder commercial depicting two guys holding hands or two girls at a grocery store talking about getting married. A movie on the family TV portraying gay characters or two girls in our neighbourhood moving in together. Homosexuality has always been the elephant in the living room of almost every Indian family. So far, society has done an incredible job at thoroughly neglecting the very existence of homosexuality in India. Labelling it as a “bad influence”, “ a phase”, “a trend” and “a western concept” has been quite successful in curbing what little empathy we possessed towards our non-binary pals.
Is homosexuality a “western concept” or is our ignorance hinting at homophobia??
If we peek into the history of India, we find tons of examples in support homosexuality. Ancient people not only knew about homosexuality but also accepted it to a considerable extent.
One of the most valuable source of historical knowledge, ‘The Rig Veda’, mentions in one of it’s versus that “Vikriti Evam Prakriti” which means “What is unnatural, is also natural”, which is a reference to homosexuality according to many intellectuals.
Vatsyayana in his famous book “The Kama Sutra” illustrated homosexual pleasure in a detailed segment called “Purushayita”. He also substantiated homosexual marriage prevalent at that time. The term “Gandharva” symbolizes “the union of two people of the same sex for cohabitation without the need for parental care”.
“Tritiya Prakriti : People of the Third Sex” written by Amara Das Wilhelm dedicated years of research to Sanskrit texts from ancient India to ascertain that awareness and acceptance of homosexuality was common in ancient times
The historical Khajuraho temple depicts several homosexual sculptures of men having sex with men and women having sex with women.
Image source: The Quint
The “Arthashastra” written by Chanakya, one of the greatest scholar till date, portrays homosexuality as a trivial offence which can be made up with minor penalty while other sexual offences beget drastic retributions.
Whatever be their respective stance, the ancient books, scriptures and historical monuments provide ample knowledge that homosexuality was indeed present in India all along. The societal oppression and legal prohibition imposed by Sec 377 forced homosexual people to live in shadows of the cis community. Sec 377 of Indian constitution made consensual as well as non-consensual sex between people of the same gender, a punishable offence entailing life imprisonment. In light of this law, numerous people were executed and jailed up for their sexual inclinations.
As the awareness of homosexuality expanded, the fights for equality of all genders expedited. The conflict lasted for years, until the Supreme Court of India on 24 Aug 2017, was compelled to provide all citizens of India, the freedom to express their sexual orientation. The Supreme Court promised to safeguard this information under the right to privacy provision. Still, the scraping of Sec 377 seemed like a losing battle.
Image source: BBC
The fight of Naz foundation for the rights of LGBT+ communities against The Supreme Court of India gained support worldwide. Protest rallies and pride parades were organised for the demolition of Sec 377. Consequently, On 6th Sept 2018, the Supreme Court made amendments to the Sec 377 legalising consensual penile non-vaginal sex between two people.
However, scraping of the law alone, was not enough to curb the widespread homophobia. The cold shoulder towards homosexuality roots from our privilege. Our privilege to follow the herd and never be mocked and oppressed for our sexual orientation. Our privilege to let homophobia slide because it’s not our fight.
Written by: Sunidhi Tyagi
Edited by: Those Archaic Flaws