The legal landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in India has evolved rapidly in a short period. In 2012 the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark decision invalidating a colonial-era law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalized homosexuality. The 2013 decision was applauded as a historic win for gay rights by activists around the world, and it became one of the first major successes of the fledgling grassroots movement to expand LGBT rights in India. In the last few decades, many developed countries have moved away from criminalization and toward embracing homosexuality. In 1994, Denmark became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex unions. Countries like United States, Canada, Argentina, France, and others not only do not consider homosexuality as a crime but also grant rights and responsibilities for gay couples.
Today, when you realize that homosexuality is genetic and we never had a problem with it in our culture and tradition, you look back to other centuries, there are no references of discrimination about homosexuality. Why is it a problem now? The answers to these questions may answer why “the sexual preferences of people” should be a subject of legislation?
In India, the pre-colonial era does not refer to a single identifiable period. It is a rather vague term that refers to the time when India was not ruled by Europeans. The logic behind this is that India is an ancient civilization and the pre-colonial era is far before the European rulers came. To understand this attitude, one must first analyze how India’s history has had an influence and effect on its culture today. There has been the constant influence of Hinduism, the predominant religion in India, on its culture that today are the rules that Indian culture walks by.
Homosexuality has been a part of Indian culture. The term “third gender” is an umbrella term that encapsulates a whole range of sexual identities and behaviors that have long been part of the fabric of India’s pluralistic society. Same-sex relationships have been documented in India since antiquity and were never considered to be subversive or treated as illegal in ancient texts. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the LGBT community needs no medical intervention as such. Homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality much like heterosexuality, bisexuality, and abnormal sexual behaviors. It is not a disease and does not require any treatment.
It is because of the ingrained values of Indian culture that the members of this community still face a lot of unreasoned oppression, bullying, and suicide attempts. I find it difficult to understand what gives them the right to imprison people for things they were born with. Society needs to accept everyone with open arms and provide them with equal rights to live with dignity. Being in someone else’s shoes means having empathy about their feelings and struggle.