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The Other End Of The Rainbow

While India grapples with its identity of a progressive, democratic and modern society, there is still a long way to go for its citizens.

Giving cause for celebration to the LGBTQIA community and its allies, the Supreme Court passed a verdict decriminalising homosexuality. This colonial era law was, however, not limited to intercourse between members of the same gender, but rather to unnatural sex. This includes any kind of consensual sexual acts between heterosexual couples as well like oral sex. According to some, the provision was worded vaguely on purpose, to avoid a discussion on what was considered to be a ‘heinous’ subject. The Supreme Court bench, led by CJI Dipak Mishra, did not strike down the law, instead read it down to be limited to offences against minors and animals.

Though the law allows for people in consensual adult relationships to live their lives as they please, society is still not quite as open. After the judgement, many clerics from different religions united to speak out against this amendment. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Apostolic Churches Alliance were among the religious organisations that claimed that homosexuality was against religion and God.  

One of the most interesting aspects of the fight against the criminalisation of homosexuality was perhaps that people retained their religious identities. Muslim men and women retained their faith while protesting for their rights as citizens of the country, as did the Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other groups. Disregarding the notion that their actions were against their God; these groups reclaimed their identities as a whole. Perhaps this is one of the reasons religious groups are so irked – they have to come to terms with two faces of their Gods.  

Opposition to homosexuality is not limited to religious groups as polls have shown. A survey conducted by Azim Premji University and the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in 2017-18 revealed that only 28% of their sample thought same sex sexual relationships should be accepted by society. Though 46% of the respondents had no opinion the remaining 26% were against the idea of same sex relationships being accepted by society.  

Other surveys conducted have shown that while homophobia is still a reality in India, the numbers have declined substantially since the 90s. A World Values Survey (WVS) conducted globally showed the difference in data from 1990 to 2014. While 89% of Indian respondents in 1990 thought ‘homosexuality was never justifiable’, in 2014 this was just 24%.  

There is still a large group of people that prefers not to live next to a same sex couple though that number too has dropped since the 90s. In 1991, 91% of respondents would not have liked to live next to a same sex couple, the percentage in 2014 was 42%. Unfortunately, the list of undesirable neighbours has changed to religious minorities, or people from other states as well as homosexuals.  

While India grapples with its identity of a progressive, democratic and modern society, there is still a long way to go for its citizens. Though many of us would like to live in a world that affords us the freedom to live as Indians within the spheres of different identities, this is not what all our fellow countrymen and women allow. Happily, the law, at least, is on the side of democracy and freedom.

Subuhi is a feminist dog mom who does research and writes on gender and equality.

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