To quote Aldous Huxley “In recent years logicians and semanticists have carried out a very thorough analysis of the symbols in terms of which men do their thinking. Linguistics has become a science, and while this is greatly for the good, it is not enough. Logic and semantics, linguistics and metalinguistics – these are purely intellectual disciplines. They analyse the various ways, correct and incorrect, meaningful and meaningless, in which words can be related to things, processes and events. But they offer no guidance, in regard to the more fundamental problem of the relationship of man in his psycho-physical totality on the one hand, and his two worlds, of data and symbols, on the other.”
Such is the problem with Section 377. Vaguely comprehended, widely refuted and much ado about an idolatrous over – estimation of words.
Though homosexuality has been in practise in our country since time immemorial, sexual identity and the politics of it have never been so pronounced as of now.
The struggle for sexual identity or the urgency of ‘coming out’ or ‘confession’ can be traced by tracking the wires of NGO currency inflow into the country. This coincided with the liberalisation policies of the 1990’s and India’s induction into globalization. Soon after the NGO’S began their media advocacy of HIV awareness and LGBT rights, a wave of homophobia rode the country. The right and the left came out with theories galore on what the ‘natural order of nature’ is and how it impacts our culture, our society and our ‘easternness’.
Theories and beliefs, are always separative. Seeking security in one belief separates from those who seek security in another belief. And it is these very beliefs that beleaguer even heterosexual couples in India. Couples who transgress societal standards like caste barriers and other norms which go ‘against the order of nature’ are dealt with severely.
Section 377 IPC (Unnatural Offences) reads: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”
I have to admit I’m queer and I’m sure you are too.
India has a diverse spectrum of same-sex cultures where sexual minorities have fulfilled their roles in various subtle ways. The risk of mainstreaming homosexuality lies, in that we may fall into a trap of globalising sexual identities and end up baptising traditional sexual minorities within the universal and totalized western definitions of LGBT. Hijras, kothis, kinnars, panthis, jogtas, dangas, alis, double-deckers, chhakkas, and dhuranis are commonly clubbed together by HIV/AIDS activists as LGBTs thus redefining these identities under predetermined western roles. While ‘coming out’ is a step forward, the challenge remains to preserve identities and not fall into pre-made traps of ‘belonging’ or ‘not belonging’. Legal tussles notwithstanding, the main challenge for the community remains societal inclusion.
Our first issue of ‘State vs Love’ explored this theme after the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that read down Section 377.
In our second issue of ‘State vs Love’ which comes at the back of reversal of the High Court order by the Supreme Court, we listen to many stories and tell a few… tales of survival and resistance, voices which have been muted, pictures that talk many languages.
And remember, the only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.