Section 377: A Vicious Circle of Discrimination and Violence

While mainstream Hindi cinema does not necessarily reflect political sensitivity to gender or class issues, or to minorities of any kind, there is a line that we have all often heard in Hindi films: ‘Ab duniya ki koi taaquat hamein ek doosre se juda nahin kar sakti’. This was a challenge to all social forces that impeded love – class, caste, region, religion, language.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India under Justices Singhvi and Mukhopadhyaya became one of those forces. This verdict, overturning the Delhi High Court judgement of 2009, which decriminalised homosexuality, has come as a body blow to all those who love ‘differently’. Honour killings, khaap panchayats, violent anti-Dalit campaigns against intercaste marriages, and the bogey of ‘love-jehad’ have already reminded us that love is serious business. Love continues to be buffeted by ugly forces that use the law and often exceed and abuse the law even today, and this has happened again.

So whose worldview has the latest Apex Court judgement upheld? This is a bunch of religious and right wing groups [such as the Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha, Trust Gods Ministry, Apostolic Churches Alliance and Utkal Christian Foundation, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Joint Action Council, Kannur (JACK)], B.P. Singhal, the BJP ideologue and former Rajya Sabha member (now deceased), S.K. Tizarawala (a representative of Baba Ramdev), all led by an astrologer, Suresh Kumar Koushal in challenging the Delhi High Court ruling.

I would like to first address some of their objections to the decriminalisation of homosexuality before I go to the judgement which has declared scores of those among us who love ‘differently’ to be criminals, worthy of being imprisoned for life. Yes, that is what Section 377 of the IPC does (Section 377, Unnatural Offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1 [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine).