Bury “Section 377” deep in your head. This phrase should ring a bell as soon as it is spoken of. This phrase should make you think of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) community. The LGBT Community wants acceptance. This section of the Indian Penal Code denies them of the same.
Section 377 of Indian Penal Code has been around since 1861. It criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexual acts. The section was declared unconstitutional with respect to sex between consenting adults by the High Court of Delhi on 2 July 2009. That judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2013, with the Court holding that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.
That’s all the history you need to know (although gay activists have been fighting over it for a very long time). It’s a matter of great debate all over the world but with the recent Supreme Court Hearing, this topic has become matter of great debate in all the group discussion rounds in Indian Institutes as well.
So stay with me on this topic “Should we legalize same sex marriages in India?”
POINTS IN FAVOUR :
- Arbitrary Rule : Section-377 of IPC criminalizes all the sexual activities which are against the order of nature, thus punishing the unnatural sex. Section-377 assumes that natural sexual act is that which leads to a birth of a child (procreation). Hence, it thereby labels all forms of non-procreative sexual act as unnatural. If the only objective of sexual act was to have a child then, what justifies the policies of family planning and the use of the contraceptive devices. Section 377 is vague and arbitrary.
- Violates right to liberty: Right to liberty is guaranteed under Article-21 of the Indian Constitution, which covers private consensual sexual relations. The fundamental right to liberty (under Article-21) prohibits the state from interfering with the private personal activities of the individual. Ours is the worlds largest democracy and logically speaking, every citizen has a fundamental right to life guaranteed by the Indian constitution. If a citizen chooses a gay partner in his/her life, it should be his decision alone. Section 377 violates this.
- Marriage is healthy: As marriage is a legal way of binding two people, the gay relationship can be legalized through marriage which will prevent the cases of illegitimate secret relations and spread of STDs as well. Ministry of Health briefed the Supreme Court in March 2012 that India has an estimated 25 lakh MSM(men having sex with men) population and about 7% (1.75 lakh) of them are HIV infected. This figure is second only to those who are injecting drugs(9%).
- Always been there: Homosexuality has an ancient history in India. Ancient texts like Rig-Veda which dates back around 1500 BC and sculptures and vestiges depict sexual acts between women as revelations of a feminine world where sexuality was based on pleasure and fertility . The description of homosexual acts in the Kamasutra, and male homosexuality in the Medieval Muslim history are some historical evidences of same-sex relationships. How does that make homosexuality unnatural or a crime now?
- Old Legislation: Section 377 of IPC dates back to 1861. The society and global acceptance have really changed since then. As of 19 August 2013, fifteen countries including Argentina, Canada, France, Norway, Spain and several states of Mexico and US allow same-sex couples to marry. A law has been passed by the United Kingdom, effective in England and Wales, which will be fully in force on 29 March 2014. Polls in various countries show that there is rising support for legally recognizing same-sex marriage across race, ethnicity, age, religion, political affiliation, and socio-economic status.We have changed many old legislative measures to suit the current ways of the world. This law holds no value now and is clearly violating equality that our democracy boasts about.
- Not Adam and Steve: It is against most of the religious beliefs. The Roman Catholic Church’s official position is to oppose same-sex marriage, as does the Orthodox Church,some Protestant churches, a majority of Muslims, Hindu nationalists, and Orthodox Jews. That constitutes a vast majority of world population. It would be very difficult for Adam and Steve to survive if the religious organizations refuse to provide employment, public accommodations, adoption services, and other benefits to same-sex couples.
- A cultural shock to Indians: As a recognized and involved member of society, man is raised with certain traditional notions of life and the way of living. A majority of society grows up the thinking heterosexual relations( relations with members of the opposite sex) as the right way of living and homosexual (same sex) as wrong. A sudden legalization of same sex marriages may not go well with this majority.
- Law suddenly invalid? : If gay marriage is OK, then why aren’t we allowed to marry our direct cousins or even our pets. Isn’t that unnatural too? We should not forget that the law is specific on this. It was created to keep the fabric of society together and has been successful in doing so for hundreds of years.
- Copying the West: All these gay parades and the sudden support and protests to legalise same sex marriages is a result of increasing impact of western culture over our traditional values. Just because it’s been legalized in about 15 countries doesn’t mean we should vouch for it too. We have been a fairly accepting society where transsexuals have co-existed and given a respectable treatment for hundreds of years.
This topic is more a religious debate than a political one. Considering democracy as our way of governance, it really seems unconstitutional to deprive such a large section of the society from the institution of marriage. However, we cannot forget that such a drastic change in the way how people perceive homosexuality cannot take place overnight, especially not in India where religious precedence is always given over constitutional rights. Its not correct to term it unnatural but It will be correct to make a “LGBT Marriage Act” only if the society becomes more accepting.
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