Section 377 of the Indian Penal code makes carnal intercourse, or any non-procreative sexual act between a man and a woman illegal, punishable with up to 10 years in jail and/or a fine. Though it doesn’t apply only to homosexuals, it is widely perceived as the anti-gay sex law. It only penalises carnal intercourse against the order of nature. This covers homosexuals and heterosexuals as well.
On September 6th, 2018, in a landmark judgment, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously, on 6 September, partially struck down the British-era law which criminalised consensual homosexual sex in India. Observing that the section was unconstitutional a five judge Bench held that Section 377 is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.
While the SC has now decriminalised Section 377, what remains to be seen if Indian parents are ready to accept homosexuality. Do take the poll and let us know what you think or leave your comments below.
Here is a brief account and analysis of whether Indian parents are equipped to understand and accept the concept of ‘homosexuality’. (All names have been changed)
-Education begins at home they say, but I’m sure at the time that this statement was first used, the need for sex education was not taken into account. Everything I gathered about the birds and the bees, and even ‘same sex love’ (pun intended), I learnt outside my home: through friends, experiences and people from the LGBT community. School had no sex education class that could shed light on homosexuality, even though I studied in an all-girls’ convent. (Little known fact — a lot of schoolgirls, especially those in boarding school, end up batting for the other side, mostly in pursuit of experimentation). That itself is testimony to how prepared our society is to create awareness about the concept of homosexuality. Unless, of course, there is some new dimension to sex education that I am unaware of — considering its been more than a decade since I passed out of school.
I’ll begin by confirming that I am straight and my parents have never questioned my choice of sexuality because they are only aware of heterosexuality. They are not even cognizant of terms such as ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’, and ‘homosexual’ even though they are both amply educated, if not highly educated. The closest they may have come to such an idea is — an effeminate relative, who was also married with two children! So, while I am not homosexual, some of my closest friends are, owing to either fate or my own tendency to befriend people from all walks of life. This had never really been a problem as my parents didn’t really need to know about the sexual choices of my friends.
However, it became an issue when I started spending much of my time with a colleague who was gay. Well, this might sound stark, but their problem was not with the fact that he was gay, because they did not know that he was gay, but their issue was with the fact that he was from the North East! They worried that I, being a south Indian Brahmin girl, would end up marrying a Christian boy from the North East. Well, caste and religion were least of their problems in this case. I had to sit them down and explain to them that there was no cause for concern because my colleague was ‘gay’. The expression on their faces was priceless when I educated them about the concept of homosexuality. My mother just went ‘aiyyyo’! (a colloquial expression of helplessness, now also a part of the Oxford Dictionary). But from that day forward, they have been more than welcoming of my colleague Peter! And it certainly works just fine for me because now Peter can chaperone me around and keep my mother reassured.
While my confession to my mother about a close friend worked to my advantage, let me rewind to a time when my classmate Indira, first confessed to me in college that she was a lesbian and that’s why most girls in class wouldn’t befriend her. No, she was not hitting on me, she was only looking for a friend and though I didn’t go on to become her BFF, another girl, Kate, did. Kate’s parents were perfectly fine with the friendship that Indira and Kate shared until they discovered that Indira was in fact a lesbian. Soon I was forced to mediate as Kate’s parents wouldn’t allow Indira to speak with their daughter. Unfortunately, Indira had fallen in love with Kate, but Kate was a straight girl. Eventually, that friendship died a natural death.
A few years passed and I bumped into Indira at a coffee shop with her partner Preeti and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the two had been married in a hush-hush, intimate ceremony with only the family members in attendance. Their parents had accepted their sexual orientation and let them pick a life of their choice, but had silently disowned them after the marriage (Note: ‘same-sex marriage amounts to criminal offense in India).
A few days ago, I shared my best friend Sanjeev’s photos with my mom. Sanjeev was styled in gorgeous, traditional Fab India merchandise — all of which were designed for ladies. My mother just rolled her eyes and asked, so is he also ‘gay’? I smiled and said ‘yes, no wonder he’s my best friend’. She nonchalantly then said, ‘Well, too bad that he isn’t straight because he’s quite handsome.’
From these personal experiences, I gather that Indian parents are ready to accept the concept of homosexuality as long as it is not their own child. And if it is their own child, they are not entirely happy to make peace with it.
Have you had similar experiences while dealing with the concept of homosexuality? Do you think that you are ready to share the truth about your own or your friend’s sexual orientation with your parents? How do you think they would react? Or do you think, like many people steeped in orthodoxy, that it is unnatural?
Share you experiences and comments below.