Why are Indians so Homophobic?

06 Sep 2009
Posted by Kiran

It was in July 2009 that we heard and read the news that the Indian High Court had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional, effectively legalizing homosexuality in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was an old piece of legislation handed down to us from the British Raj. The British started the process of legalizing homosexuality back in 1967; however, we Indians still carry the notion that individuals need to be policed to ensure that they lead every part of their private lives as per the general diktat of the majority!

When the Indian High Court struck down the archaic law, I had brief discussions with some of my Indian friends and soon realized that there was widespread outrage even in the educated classes about this decision. Even today a majority of Indians seem to believe that homosexuality is indeed "unnatural" and hence, should be illegal.

If you really think about it, this belief stems from the cowardly attitude of the Indian majority. It is the irrational fear of something they cannot understand and hence cannot imagine to be true or natural.

As I said earlier, I did discuss this with a few friends and the general arguments against Homosexuality I got were:

1. God's intent
The argument is that God intended sex to be a means to reproduction; it has to be between a male and a female to create children. Some have also gone to the extent of saying that homosexuality threatens the future of the human race.

The first thing I would ask such people is "Have you ever heard of Asexual Reproduction?" God's creations and intents are too vast and varied for us puny humans to fully comprehend. How else would you explain the whole evolutionary process that has created us in the first place?

I agree that today sex is usually between male and female and its primary biological intent is reproduction. But we also need to accept that human society has moved far ahead of simple reproduction. Sex is no longer just about reproduction for us.

Also agreed, that homosexuality currently doesn't serve the reproductive necessity of the human race. However, to say that it threatens the very existence of the human race and its continuance on the Earth is going a bit too far and is pure scare-mongering, nothing else.

2. Family instability
This is another fantastic argument. That the union would be between two men or two women will mean that two of the stronger sex or two of the weaker sex would be getting together, which in turn would destabilize the family.

I find this particular argument very vague and ill thought of. Not all guys are strong and not all girls are weak; hence, the stereotypes of "Stronger Sex" and "Weaker Sex" is better disregarded - it cannot ensure family stability. You could have the strongest of men marry the weakest of women and still not have a stable family. As far as I can see the only thing that can ensure family stability is love and understanding between the partners irrespective of whether it is a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

3. My personal preferences & sensibilities
This is an argument that is closer to my heart. It touches on whether I am personally willing to accept homosexuality in my family.

I would be a hypocrite if I said that I would accept homosexual behavior from my own family members - I wouldn't! Or rather, I couldn't; I would find it very hard to digest.

But that is also the point I am trying to make. My personal sensibilities or preferences should not have a bearing on what is legal or illegal in my country. I have my own thoughts and ideas about various cultural issues - all those ideas cannot start dictating laws of my country. Just because I find a certain idea hard to digest, shouldn't mean that that idea be deemed incorrect for everyone else as well.

If my sensibilities were so important, then other cultural rituals such as circumcision or throwing babies from temple roofs and social practices such as Live-in relationships or even Non-Vegetarianism would also have to be illegal! Well, they are not.

If the general sensibility of the Indian public were to be considered important in formulation of law, then practices such as Inter-caste or Inter-faith marriages should have been out-lawed! They are not.

That has been the problem with us Indians all the time. The ideas and convictions of the majorities rule! We are a very diverse society; but unfortunately, we are also a very intolerant society. This is evidenced itself time and again in the moral policing that is routine in India. The enforcers of Indian Law, not surprisingly, turn a blind eye to such vigilante activism.

When you start making laws based on social sensitivities, you are treading on dangerous territory. Laws that are in place to prevent physical harm or loss of property are justifiable. However, Laws cannot be enforced seeking to limit the freedom and right to privacy for some people just because the way they choose to live their lives does not appeal to the sensibilities of the general majority.

The Indian society cannot afford to live in a shell and only choose to let in those ideas that it feels aligns with its own sensibilities. Such an attitude will not help in creating a global society. If India ever has to put itself on the global map its thoughts, ideas and attitude has to open up. Indians will have to be a lot more open-minded and the society has to be a lot more inclusive.

To sum up, as the Stonewall campaign so rightly puts it "Some people are gay. Get over it!"