India Uncut

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The monstrosity that is Section 377

I've mentioned my opposition to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code earlier, so let me now point you to quite the most comprehensive piece I've read on the subject yet: Section 377 and the Dignity of Indian Homosexuals (pdf link) by Alok Gupta, published in Economic and Political Weekly.

Gupta's piece looks at how that section evolved, and how it "makes criminals out of homosexuals." Gupta also describes "the increasingly creative ways in which 377 is being implemented," which makes the subject rather urgent: Section 377 is not some archaic law that no one cares about, but one that is regularly used to harass gay people.

I may be wrong, but there must be more gay people in the world than people with blue eyes, or brown hair, or colour-blindness. Surely those things are also against "the order of nature." When a blue-eyed person looks at you, surely that is one of "an odious class of offences," as Thomas Babbington Macaulay described homosexuality while speaking about clause 361, the predecessor to Section 377 in the first draft of the Indian Penal Code. Should we criminalise the possession of blue eyes and brown hair as well? Shall we send colour-blind people to jail?

This is perhaps not the place to mention it, but when I was a child I thought that the word 'penal' came from 'penis'. I shall pass up on the opportunity to describe the gentlemen who wrote these laws as dickheads, and simply say that if we are to pride ourselves on being a free society, where individuals and their choices are respected, we need to get rid of Section 377.

Having said that, and despite this fine initiative, I think it unlikely that our law-makers will make this change anytime soon. The kind of elite urbanites who demand that Section 377 be scrapped are not a votebank big enough to make a difference to politicians. So why should they care?

(EPW link via email from Vikram Doctor.)
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