India Steps Back To 1860
Author: M. G.
Thursday 12th of December 2013 12:36:18 PM

Gay sex in India is illegal. Again! If you're in India, gay, and you practice sex with another gay partner, you are a criminal and you can be punished with up to 10 years in jail.

A sense of acceptance towards the gay community started slowly developing in the country from 2009, thanks to a decision by the Delhi High Court that we can consider as a milestone in the history of gay rights of the country. The Court ruled unconstitutional and changed a section of the Indian penal code dating back to 1860 that prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal". The concept of ‘order of nature' is clearly too wide to be used in a law matter: sex with non-consenting adults - or animals - is still against the order of nature and of the law, but consenting adults should be free to follow their natural feelings and have sex with other consenting partners, independent of their gender.

Any hopes for more integration of gay people in the super-conservative Indian society were broken yesterday. The Supreme Court threw out the decision by the Delhi High Court by saying that only the parliament can change the penal code. What's sad is that many Indians are probably rejoicing in this step back to 1860, a reconstitution of the ‘order of nature' according to their opinion. All India Muslim Personal Board member Zafaryab Jilani, a petitioner in the Supreme Court, said the judgment "has been done to keep our culture intact. This has been done to respect all religions." In fact, religious figures and groups have welcomed the judgment too, such as well known yoga guru Baba Ramdev, who has strongly opposed homosexuality. "The court has respected the sentiments of millions of Indians and declared homosexuality a crime," he said.

Those who were hoping for a social development of India are now having a really bad time: "This is a black day for all of us citizens of modern India; we are very disappointed by the verdict," added Amnesty International's India chief executive G. Ananthapadmanabhan, "It is going to be a long and uncertain route now. There's no doubt that a historic move has been lost." Many Bollywood stars expressed their disappointment too through social media: "Its frightening how someone else decides how, when and who you should love - basically freedom of choice isn't legal anymore," posted actress Shruti Haasan, while director Anand Gandhi simply tweeted "Only a highly uninformed mind can have [the] arrogance of assuming that consenting adults having sex is any of their business". Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, another defender of gay rights, also gave a statement against the Supreme Court's decision: "Canceled trip to India. My wife and I would not feel welcome there... Well - when I have a wife - we won't be going to India."

‘The culture of the people' and ‘pop culture' mean two different things and, analysing gay acceptance in India, we can clearly see the reasons why: on one side you see the hyper-traditional and religious India that thinks that gay people deserve to be in jail for many years, while on the other side you see Bollywood stars - and not only them - supporting gay people and, in general, Indians' right to live in a progressive and modern India.


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