What Future Holds for LGBTQI Community
Student of B.COM LL.B (Hons) at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad
This article aims to bring into notice the hardships that the LGBTQI community has to overcome in Indiam even after the Apex Court ruling that homosexuality is not a crime and every person has the right to love whoever they want1. Despite the law being in their favor, the LGBTQI community is struggling to find the acceptance, respect and fair treatment in the society that, on the outside claims to be progressive but from the inside still looks at homosexuals and non-binary genders as foul elements. Ignorance and disregard of these people instead of straightaway rejecting their rights has become the new standard of “acceptance” in the society which is not remotely close to the idea which is laid down in the judgment of 20182. Until and unless people try and understand that letting other live their life as they please and love whoever they want, as long as it doesn’t adversely affect their own lives, is what basic humanity consists of, the path of acceptance in the society seems to be studded with struggle and oppression for the LGBTQI community. The least, people of this community deserve is basic humanity.
I am the Love that dare not speak its name.
-Lord Alfred Douglas
The above lines are taken from the poem “Two Loves” written by Lord Alfred Douglas in 1894. Lord Douglas always contended that it is in no way connected to homosexuality but the society was well aware of the relationship between him and Oscar Wilde. At that time, homosexuality was a criminal offense in England in the 19th century. Wilde was prosecuted for indecency and sodomy and further he was asked about this line mentioned above and Wilde described it as “It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect…There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him3“. These lines are relevant in the present Indian context where on one hand; a community is struggling to defend the whole idea of
love that is always purest in its form irrespective of the “sex and gender” of the person you are in love with and on the other, a society which is trying to dictate whom you can love and whom you cannot.
On 6th September 2018, a five-member Bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India4 ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), insofar as it applied to consenting adults, is discriminatory towards homosexuals and the LGBTQI community. Now, LGBTQI community has been finally decriminalized not for any criminal act that they were committing or promoting, but for their sexuality and their orientation – something which is so personal and private, that it could have been a great idea to include it in Fundamental Rights or at least, recognize it as a mere right. The Supreme Court overruled the previous judgment of 2013 which criminalized the community on the basis of “minuscule and minority”. Moreover, Justice Indu Malhotra said that “history owes an apology to the members of this community and their families…….for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries”5.
Current Social Scenario
But do we think that with the help of this judgment, the LGBTQI community would open up about their sexuality easily in India’s radical and conservative society? A battle won in the courtroom is different from the battles that the community has to fight in their households – with their friends, family, and relatives. Even after the judgment, the situation is LGBTQI + society. They are still considered different from the so-called “natural and ordinary” society. They call this community against the law of nature but fail to understand the simple concept of vikirati aivam Prakriti, mentioned in Rigveda, which means what seems to be unnatural is also natural6. We do not understand the idea of “orientation and preferences” nor are we ready to accept that some things are so private and personal that they are not to be interfered with by anyone. It’s the same as Albus Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that “it is our choices that show us who we truly are far more than our abilities”. Sexuality is one of those choices that show a person who he truly is and what he wants to be.
We are left with so many questions even after the judgment. How a person can come out of the closet and reveal his true self? Will society accept him? What about the parent’s acceptance? What about the principles of equality and liberty in action rather than in a motionless and idealistic judgment? Why are we trying to restrict and confine a person’s true identity in the norms of “man” and “woman”, “masculinity” and “femininity” or in general, in defined roles and attributes? There is still a lack of awareness among the people who think that homosexuality is against the law of nature. They believe that it’s just a phase that homosexuals are going through which will fade away with the time. In many parts of the country or to be specific, it’s the villages where gay people are locked up in a room, where lesbians are forced to marry a man or sometimes they are raped in “order to cure them of this psychological disease” which the society claims, where they are beaten up by their parents thinking that with this they will drop such unnatural and abnormal ideas. Thus, affirming the idea of B.R. Ambedkar that “village is the unit of violence”7. It is this unit that is the root of all types of violence against this community. We have so many online chatrooms and blogs where the LGBTQI community opens up about their experiences and their orientation.
But there is one more peculiarity about these blogs. These blogs don’t have much involvement in others who don’t belong to this community. This leaves the community, again isolated, which is indirectly forced to interact with members of its community and not outside of it. Is this the fraternity and unity that preamble of our constitution talks about? In India, the LGBTQ literature is also no exception to the kind of hatred that the community is facing. We have been avoiding a great piece of literature since a long time, that if, was promoted, could have made the nation modern in many ways, one being the assimilation of LGBTQ community. In 1942, Ismat Chughtai wrote a short story named Lihaaf, due to which she was tried for obscenity in Lahore court. Though she won the case but she was forced to apologize to the society, which she never did. The society was adamant about the notion that how dare she suggest something as “chee-chee” as a same-sex relationship?8 Even the Judges in the case have cited many great works of prose and poetry from different parts of the world to explain the idea of “individuality”. For example, the great German thinker, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his words
— “I am what I am, so take me as I am” were also cited. Similarly, Arthur Schopenlouer was also cited to give support for individuality, and thus his words “No one can escape from their individuality.” were also cited.
What are We Proud of?
In the end, it’s the society that troubles. Thus, we are left with one more question. what is it that this community is proud of except their brave and courageous act of coming out of their closet? The answer is none. They are left with nothing to be proud of. To feel proud in a society, it’s the responsibility of every individual to make him feel respected, equal and worthy.
The truth is, there is still a long road ahead which we have to travel to ensure that the basic principles of humanity and human rights are no more Utopian vision. We cannot say that the life of the LGBTQI community is easy after the 377 judgment. It’s like; we have recognized their existence and their identity but we have not taken any step to protect the same. On one hand, we have the same society performing its business of oppressing the true self of a person. And on the other, we have the state, which is still blind and ignorant of the same status quo. Recently, India has abstained from voting at the UNHRC on a resolution moved by Latin American states seeking to renew the mandate of an independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI)9. This shows the state’s intention of keeping itself away from recognizing same-sex relations and from making any law for the protection of this community. Again, a decision that drags India a step backward.
We cannot completely blame society for the same ostracism that the community is facing. For 2000 years of evolution, we have accepted any changes in society but we are still habituated with the same notion of roles and duties of two genders and the same notion of peculiar attributes of “man” and “woman”. Thus, anything in deviation of these norms causes discomfort to us and finally what may not be a legal crime may seem to be a “societal crime”.
Thus, we need to redefine these roles and responsibilities. We need to teach the next generation about the difference between sex and gender. There is a need to sensitize people about the identity that a person feels to be associated with and the “basic humanitarian duty” to respect that feeling. For sure, many of us are educationallywell-off. But in reality, we are illiterate when it comes to understanding human emotions, expressions, and feelings. We need to bridge this gap. Basic laws concerning discrimination and inequality need to be taught to everyone. It’s the influence of educational institutions that can help to develop a wave of liberal thoughts toward every person.
The future generation is the torchbearer of this nation. It’s in their young hands to either make a liberal and peaceful nation or a radical and chaotic one. Only we can decide what future holds for this community and all of us. Until and unless each one of us does not come forward with a thought of bridging the gap between reality and the utopia, we are not working for a real inclusive society.
1 Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India, AIR 2016 SC 76.
2 Ibid. 3 The love that dare not speak its name, available at: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-love-that-dare-not-speak-its- name.html (last visited on March 20, 2020).
4 AIR 2016 SC 76.
6 Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip and Stephen Hunt (eds), The Ashgate Research Companion to Contemporary Religion and Sexuality
(Ashgate Publishing Limited, Farnham England, 2012).
7 Rashmi Patel, ‘Being LGBT in India: Some Home Truths’, LiveMint, Aug. 27, 2016.
8 Urmi Chanda-Vaz, ‘Gay Literature Is Firmly Out of The Closet in India’, Quartz India, Jul. 20, 2015. 9 Geeta Mohan, ‘India Abstains from Voting for LGBTQ Rights at UN Human Rights Council’, India Today, Jul. 12, 2019.