“Unnatural offences. Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with [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.”
Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code runs like this. This article has many terms, like the very first word “Unnatural”, which needs to be interrogated and problematized. What is the correct definition of the word unnatural and who are we to define what is ‘natural’ & what is ‘unnatural’? Who has the authority to define a term? What are the political aims achieved in such processes of legalizing some things and rendering others ‘illegal’?
LGBTTQQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual) a community which is suffering because of our lack of understanding towards them & which culminated into article 377. Who are we to confine their choices, their preferences & term them ‘unnatural’? One difference which needs to be understood is between the terms – Sex and Gender. Sex is something which is given to us naturally and gender is something given by the society. So, as we can see, while there is a natural biological difference between different bodies, gender (specifically the Male/Female binary) is a cultural construct which seeks to calibrate all bodies on the basis of which side of the binary they manage to fit in and judge and punish those which don’t appear to meet these societal standards. All subjects and bodies which cannot be adequately absorbed in the male/female binary are henceforth to be deemed ‘unnatural’ and sidelined and marginalized.
The idea governing this disciplining of bodies and subjects not only seeks to naturalize the identities culturally constructed by the dominant order but also normative heterosexuality. Crucial in this respect is the idea of ‘dignity’ and ‘self respect’. Discriminating against all those ‘other bodies and sexualities is a matter which sabotages human dignity. We need to understand that sexual preference of an individual is a matter of his/her personal autonomy. We are in the 21st century and, no matter where you go, everyone is talking about national security but have we ever thought about ‘human security’? Given that LGBTQ’s are humans as well, why can’t we accept them, learn to furlough useless distinctions and instead ensure for them a dignified life?
LGBTQ (if we go by the simple acronym) community are people just like us, having the same habits as we have. They are not from a different planet. The only point of difference is that their sexual preferences are different & that shouldn’t make them appear as ‘aliens’ who simply cannot be accepted. That’s the one thing we all need to understand & focus on, and the rest all will be solved. But we keep on criticizing people who belong to LGBTQ community & never try to address their problems. They have to undergo a huge amount of resentment from society, from their own family members. Many cases have been there where people when revealed that they are either lesbian or gay, were either locked up or shunned by their family members forcing many to commit suicide. In many incidents family members themselves killed them. They are not even able to find a home for them because when they reveal their identity, people start hating them & they feel that they are impure.
Shockingly, in many cases the concerned person was given a medical treatment because they thought it to be a kind of disease. Even when in parliament a proposal was put up against article 377 it was defeated by a very high margin. Our politicians feel ashamed & just ignore the topic when someone tries to talk to them. So we should just try imagining the hardships they have to go throughout their life.
Once I uploaded a status and it goes like this – ‘I don’t believe in being labeled as a Man, Woman, Homosexual, Bisexual, Heterosexual, Lesbian. I am in a space where i feel like a man sometimes, i feel like a woman, i feel like a eunuch sometimes. That’s exactly who I am. There are no boxes for my gender expressions & there are no boxes for my Sexual expression’ & immediately after uploading it I was flooded by so many comments that people started making fun of me. They started asking me questions that ‘are you all right’? Even my own family members started doubting my sexual preferences & asked ‘are you all right’ because people belonging to LGBTQ community are considered ‘Impure’ or somewhat ‘Abnormal’. As of April 2006 only 19 countries granted most of the rights to its LGBTQ citizens. We need to understand that article 377 is a colonial law & why it was introduced at a particular instant. Section 377 disturbs the choices to be granted to citizens of a country, sabotages & rips apart the respect, protection one needs to flourish as a member of society and we need to understand that whatever anyone’s preferences are, they are first of all right bearing individuals.
Even despite facing so many hardships & suffering the people belonging to this community have succeeded a lot on their part. Kalki Subramaniam one of the famous transgenders, became an actress and acted in many films. She has her own NGO & is working for the benefit of the LGBTQ community & even endorses many products. Professor Bandopadhyay became the first transgender principal of a university in Kolkata. They are in reality true heroes. Many NGO’S are still there that are working for their benefits& people also day by day are becoming more aware about them, their hardships, concerns and objectives. But a lot of work still has to be done in this field. It is very important that people know more and more about them and come to understand that they are just like us. Challenging the dominant ideology – the heteronormative heterosexual framework which seeks to govern and control all subjects and their sexualities – is the need of the hour. It is very important to recognize them as a part of our society & make our society a better place for everyone to live in. Even small actions can help make a difference. Let’s make sure this difference is for something better. I support LGBTQ!
By – Rishabh Jain, Writer – DU Times