Article 377: Too much celebration over too little – Oliver D’Souza

by- Oliver D’Souza

The Supreme Court has struck down Article 377 which criminalizes homosexuality stating that it was a colonial era law that is not relevant to present times. This has led to enormous celebration in the LGBT community and among those who have been campaigning against it.

The difficulties being face by the LGBT community were two-fold. One was that they were prosecutable under criminal law. The other is that the sexual practices of the community are not approved by larger Indian society on moral grounds, leading to their ostracization.

What the scrapping of article 377 does is that it protects the LGBT community from being criminally prosecuted. Although sex in the LGBT community occurs behind closed doors, the community had to always live in fear that their activities occurring behind closed doors would reach the police station at the instance of any person who dissapproves their sexual activities. The LGBT community no more needs to live in such fear. But that’s about all the benefit the community receives from scrapping article 377.

When it comes to the general public ostracizing the community due to the cross-dressing among many of them, and due to their sexual orientation, though, it is quite another story. Public perception and attitudes to the LGBT is not determined by the now scrapped article but by the religious mores of the people.

Religious values of the people are largely shaped by the religions they follow. All the faiths practices in India more or less consider homosexuality and lesbianism immoral. Following the ruling, various religious heads of different religions in the country have reiterated that while they respect the Supreme Court’s ruling and respect the LGBT community as it is, their faith disapproves the sexual practices in LGBT community.

In other words, though the ruling may have protected the LGBT community from criminal prosecution, it certainly does nothing about the religious immorality tag attached to its sexual practices which leads to their social ostracism, and, herein lies the greatest problem for the LGBT community. Because of moral perceptions, social acceptance of the LGBT community, even in Western societies, largely does not exist. It is a myth that ‘coming out’ by the LGBT community does not lead to their ostracism. It does. On moral grounds. At best, people merely put up with them.
Article 377 came up before the Supreme Court after the government bounced it off to the court precisely because of the morality issue. Having a majority government, the government could have easily decriminalize it through parliament but it did not do so and passed the buck on to the Supreme Court. Now that the court has done its part, the ball is now once again back in court of the government because of the larger problems faced by the LGBT community.

The government ought to focus on the welfare of the entire LGBT community. The ostracism that the community faces affects them in various ways including economic welfare. The government must come up with schemes to economically empower the LBGT community, a majority of which, as seen on the streets, live in penury, mostly taking to beggary for a living. Till then, the present celebration is too much over too little.

New Delhi: Hotelier and Section 377 crusader Keshav Suri celebrates after the Supreme Court in a landmark decision decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”; in New Delhi on Sept 6, 2018. The top court delivering separate but concurring judgments, said it is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail. The verdict sparked celebrations amongst the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community across India. (Photo: IANS)

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