There is something awfully nostalgic about May 16. The election results brought with them a sense of melancholy-laden déjà vu. For the queers and allies on the political Left, the sinking feeling that May 16 brought with it, was reminiscent of yet another day, December 11, 2013; the day the Indian Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Delhi High Court decriminalizing homosexuality in India. It was once again criminal to be gay in India; once again the legal State apparatus had rendered queer bodies vulnerable to violence, from the State and from the political Right. There was a sense of desperation and disheartening injustice; what avenues remained to be sought when the country’s highest courts had us disappointed?
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had vehemently welcomed the Supreme Court judgment then, but our incoming Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, remained silent. It was perhaps too trivial an issue for him to address; when were rights anyway a matter of importance for him? If the indigenous people and forest dwellers of Gujarat could make the Indian mass media listen to them, they would tell us the story of Gujarat’s abysmal performance in settling land claims and distributing title deeds. Rights, especially of the fragments, are a roadblock for the Modi-style Development machine.
Our India is a religious country whose overwhelming majority believes in religion and upholds traditions of the east. All religions emphasize on construction of a family through marital relation between men and women, on which depend not only the existence of human race and lasting peace and tranquillity in the society but it also establishes the respected and central position of woman in the society.
The Constitution of the country has rightly described homosexuality as a punishable offence. It is because homosexuality not only prevents evolution and progress of human race but also destroys family system and social relations. Moreover, it is a great danger to public health. Medical research has also found it as a basic reason for the spread of AIDS…
Away from the obscenity of a parade of tanks, nuclear missiles, and military might, the citizens of Delhi, once again (yesterday, the 26th of January, Republic Day) demonstrated that their re-definition of citizenship and the idea of a republic does not necessarily need an army, the AFSPA, restrictive laws like section 377, moral policing, censorship and assaults on workers, gay, lesbian and transgender people, women, the young, pensioners, minorities, Africans and other non-Indian inhabitants of Delhi, disabled people, or discrimination against people from the North East and Kashmir. Since last year, in the wake of the anti-rape protests, the 26th of January, which is nominally observed as the day when the Indian state performs its show of strength on New Delhi’s Rajpath has now been liberated by many of Delhi’s citizens groups as an occasion for us to turn away from the spectacle of the state and walk towards a liberated future. This is how the Republic gets Reclaimed on 26th January in Delhi.
It may be a strange thing for a gay man to say, but I welcome the Supreme Court judgement re-criminalising the sexual acts I feel naturally inclined to engage in.
As someone who chooses to admit to his sexuality only before other gay men, and that too very selectively, you could call me closeted. Which means that I don’t feel as unfortunate as the ‘out’ lot which feels as though Indian law is asking it to go back into the closet.
I personally welcome the Supreme Court judgement because it will drill some sense of reality into my straight liberal friends who keep pestering, taunting, hinting, trying to make me say, ‘I am gay’. They will realise that there’s enough homophobia out there, enough of it for the Indian Supreme Court, considered a liberal institution, to re-criminalise ‘unnatural sex’. That gives me some semblance of an excuse, or so I hope, to remain closeted. Continue reading Why I prefer the company of homophobic people: Anonymous→
A politician is exposed using State surveillance to allegedly woo his love interest. An editor tells a reporter his daughter’s age that the easiest way for her to keep her job would be to have sex with him. A godman and his son are both arrested for sexual assault and rape. A riot in Muzaffarnagar over false rumours of inter-religious ‘eve teasing’ left 48 dead and 15,000 homeless. The debate on rape, consent, gender relations sparked by December 16, 2012 continued throughout 2013. And by the end of it the Indian Supreme Court decided that the Indian Constitution’s letter and spirit were not being violated by criminalising consenting adults for having sex, in case the sex happened to be anything other than peno-vaginal.
India 2013 is like a pubescent 13 year old realising there’s something about the body that the mind needs to grapple with. There’s something about power, pleasure, social mores, class, law and so on, that comes together in the body and negotiates its way through bodily desire. There’s a sexual churning out there, and it’s not as titillating as the annual sex surveys news magazines do, nor is it as literary and profound as the language an incarcerated editor wields. Continue reading Sex and the courtroom→
The ruling by a two-member bench of the Supreme Court, striking down the judgement of the Delhi high Court which had held that Article 377 – a pre-Constitution, 19th century colonial-era law – violated the spirit and directive principles of the Indian Constitution, seems to break new ground in jurisprudence. In an era where governments worldwide have been engaged in systematically rolling back hard-won civil liberties and individual rights and violating constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and principles, one might be excused for believing that the most urgent duty of an independent judiciary endowed with a reasonable degree of conviction and courage, would be to curb the transgressions of governments against the principles laid down in their own constitutions. The recent ruling of the SC does little to encourage such a belief. Continue reading An anti-constitutional judgement: Johannes Manjrekar→
It is with deep shock and disappointment that we received the regressive judgment of the Supreme Court dated 11-12-13, on the reading down of Section 377 of the IPC related to the rights of queer (lesbian bisexual gay and transgender…) people in this country, which reverted the decriminalisation of non-normative sexualities following the Delhi High Court judgement in 2009.
The Delhi High Court had based its expansive judgement on the eloquent discussion of constitutional morality by the framers of our Constitution, especially Dr. Ambedkar. Constitutional morality, they argued is the basis for equality of citizens since public morality which is largely the morality of the dominant forces in society can never guarantee democracy, and perhaps even more importantly equality and dignity to its citizens, especially its most marginal citizens. Additionally, The Delhi High Court judgement evoked the spirit of dignity, inclusiveness and non-discrimination, thereby emphasizing equality of all citizens that Nehru spoke of during the Constituent Assembly debates, so necessary for the deeply hierarchical social fabric that our country represents. Continue reading On the SC judgement on Sec 377: Statement from TISS teachers→
The Supreme Court has struck down the Delhi High Court decision decriminalizing gay sex in what might go down as the most retrograde judgement in India’s history. While the details of the Court’s reasoning are still not available, we can perhaps easily imagine what they might be. This is time of civil disobedience. Time for protest.
Assemble at Jantar Mantar at 4.30 pm, today 11 December to announce to the world that ‘We Are All Queer’. To announce that this is not a struggle of just the ‘gay-lesbian community’ but a struggle for our most fundamental rights and cherished values.
This is a guest post by Rukmini Sen The Madras High Court on 17th June 2013 has delivered a judgment where it unambiguously states that ‘the main legal aspect for a valid marriage is consummation’ (pg 13). Consummation of a marriage, in many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, is the first (or first officially credited) act of sexual intercoursebetween two people, either following their marriage to each other or after a prolonged sexual attraction. Its legal significance arises from theories of marriage as having the purpose of producing legally recognized descendants of the partners, or of providing sanction to their sexual acts together, or both(last accessed 22nd June 2013). In a country like India, where Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code still exists (although decriminalization of consensual sexual acts between two adults in private has been declared by the Delhi High Court in 2008), what constitutes the status of consummation in a gay/lesbian union or when two heterosexual adults live together, when the legal significance of consummation is connected only with giving birth to a ‘legitimate’ child? What about relationships where there are willfully no children, biological, adopted or surrogate? This is one of the many questions that this judgment raises and leaves me more bewildered about my legal identity as a cohabiting partner in a heterosexual relationship.
PRESS STATEMENT: MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS CRITICISE UNION HEALTH MINISTER’S STATEMENT ON HOMOSEXUALITY
6 July 2011: We are a group of highly qualified mental health professionals who are practicing as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and behavioural psychologists from across the country. We regret the statement made by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday where he called homosexuality a “disease”, as being “unnatural”, and a having “come from western shores”. Scientific evidence shows that homosexuality is a natural variant of human sexuality and is not a mental disorder or disease. Homosexuality as a specific diagnostic category was removed from the World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders published in 1992, and from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV Guidelines in 1973. Continue reading Mental Health Professionals Criticise Union Health Minister’s Statement on Homosexuality→
(I had conducted this interview while working on a story on the Delhi High Court judgement on the 377 case. While that story didn’t materialise, I thought I should post this interview now.)
PURUSHOTHAMAN MULLOLI is general secretary of the Joint Action Council, Kannur-India (JACKINDIA) which intervened in the Section 377 case in the Delhi High Court. In an interview he explains his opposition to the case.
University teachers, researchers and academics from all over India issued a strong statement in support of the recent Delhi High Court judgement decriminalizing consensual sex among adults and challenged the legitimacy of “religious leaders” to speak for the whole of society.
180 signatories from institutions and universities in Allahabad, Calicut, Peechi, Punalur, Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Sonipat, Goa, Jammu, Nanded, Mumbai, Pune, Pondicherry, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Chennai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Shillong endorsed a statement that said:
I have two daughters, born 1984 and 1988. As they grew up we noticed that both of them were ambidextrous but gradually the 84 born started favouring her right hand over the left but the 88 born did the exact reverse. She began to rely more and more on her left hand to do things like eating, opening doors, picking up things, writing etc,things that “normal” people including my elder daughter do with their right hand.
A couple of interfering neighbours tried telling us to ‘teach’ our daughter to do things properly and not to eat or touch ‘saraswati’ with her dirty hand. Luckily we told these busy bodies to mind their own business and let her be. Continue reading Right Hand, Wrong Hand→
In the aftermath of the Delhi High Court judgement reading down Section 377, the initial euphoria and celebration is now being increasingly met with an equally strong backlash. Some of this has of course come from the religious right of all denominations (Hindu,Muslim, Sikh, Isayi Apas mein sab bhai bhai), the army, politicians, conservative commentators in the press. Underlying much of the oppositions seems to be a sense that somehow the decriminalization of homosexuality is going to turn everyone gay, a sentiment that sounds bizarre to us.
But now that I have been thinking about this I think I am beginning to understand the fear that is articulated in this “homosexuality-as-contagious-virus” position. Because in one sense they are right. In his post Lawrence speaks of the radical politics of impossibility – the change in the law suddenly makes possible a new set of imaginary possibilities that we could not dream of hitherto. And so BP Singhal and Dominic Emmanuel and everyone else who is saying that the presence of the law performs a stellar function against the rise of a virtual army of gay people and must remain on the books, even if, and indeed especially because, it is never used against actual real gay people, have a point. Continue reading Why I Feel For B.P. Singhal→
Bharatendu Prakash Singhal, 78, is a Hindutva ideologue, a retired IPS officer and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP. On a Sunday afternoon I visited him to discuss his opposition to the decriminalization of gay sex by the Delhi High Court. He is preparing to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. Singhal explained that he wasn’t opposed to private consensual sex between same-sex adults, he didn’t want such adults prosecuted or persecuted, but he merely wanted the law to remain on paper as a deterrent. This is the transcript of a recorded interview; a much shorter, edited version has appeared in Open.Continue reading BP Singhal: “I don’t have any problem with homosexuals. Do you?”→
So now that we have one group of criminals less to deal with, I have a proposal: Criminalize English TV news channels.
‘Debate,’ the Times Now way
Watching Times Now yesterday after the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377, I was overcome by a growing sense of bewilderment. I could hear Dominic Emmanuel (Director of the Delhi Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church) and Kamal Farooqui (Chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission), saying quite cearly and more than once, to my surprise, that they welcome the decriminalization of homosexuality, that homosexuals should not be treated as if they were criminals. Okay, correct that – I could barely hear these statements over the insistent, aggressive and disruptive interruptions of the anchor Arnab Goswami, who had obviously pre-set this “discussion” rigidly as a face-off between Reactionary Clerics/Minorities and Gay Rights Activists, while he himself was super hero, Anchorman. So each time they said “we welcome” etc., Anchorman would swoop in, bellowing, “So are you saying that they dont have rights, Sir, are you saying they should not have rights. Over to Anjali Gopalan (Naz) – Anjali, they say homosexuals should not have rights, what do you say?”
Topicality is a homage one pays to the short-term memory that the new media both triggers and complains against in its customers. In the long-term of course, where trend is all important, the topical is only a category of the banal. But it is under the shelter of such a necessary topicality – the topical is always necessary – that I hope to sneak in a scandal.
Everyone is talking about the queer pride marches that are going to happen in four cities in India at the end of this month. Most liberal reportage is obviously supportive, if not triumphant. For these cities themselves, it is seen as a step into a liberal urban culture which tolerates, even enjoys difference. All the talk about the ‘gay community’ or ‘lgbt community’ that the Indian media – and the activists – have been dabbling in for at least a decade now, seems to be reaching its logical climax: the community is expressing itself. Every city seems to have its own pet lgbt community or at least aspires to.