July 10, 2018 marks a significant date in India’s contemporary society. On this day, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court begins its hearing on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This section currently criminalizes “sexual activities against the order of nature” including homosexual relationships.
India has been notorious for stigmatization and discrimination against individuals who identify as queer. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code allows for this pejorative to continue and fosters further discrepancy and tension. It has hence curtailed the progressive advancement of Indian society. It is rather disheartening to see how whilst marital rape is not viewed as a crime in India, sexual activities between two consenting adults continues to be regarded so. India has a long way to go in tackling bigotry and July 10 marks the first step towards doing so, by offering a voice to those who have been oppressed, suppressed and disregarded in the eyes of society. It marks the first step towards challenging dogmatic orthodoxy in favor of liberal acceptance and freedom.
However, despite the value of offering a voice to discriminated groups, it also brought hate speech to the forefront. It’s piteous to view how this hate speech not only came from radical groups but from Parliament members in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament).
For instance, prior to the hearing, Subramanian Swamy, senior BJP leader, said the following:
With a large following, such comments made by senior leaders of political parties is worrying, as it merely propagates the culture of inequity and marginalization. Subramanian Swamy has had a history of sharing his homophobic beliefs. In the past, he’s said, “As long as they don’t celebrate it, don’t flaunt it, don’t create gay bars to select partners, it’s not a problem. In their privacy what they do, nobody can invade but if you flaunt it, it has to be punished and therefore there has to be Section 377 of the IPC.”
The problem with such hateful blind assertions arises from the ignorance that is allowed to proliferate. Despite the Indian Psychiatric Society, the American Psychiatric Association and the WHO rejecting homosexuality as a psychiatric disease or disorder, individuals continue to believe in such baseless conjecture.
Such views serve as the very contradiction to what it means to be a free and equal society. As the world’s largest democracy India must continue to fight these battles to ensure the true essence of parity.