I have not written about India for a while now but I must admit this story did catch my eye and I felt it needed to be written about. So what is going on exactly? According to reports there has been a move to reverse the law change, which occurred in 2009, to make homosexual acts illegal once again in India. This is a Supreme Court decision which will revive the 153 year old colonial law, which deemed same sex relationships as an ‘unnatural offence’ and punishable by a life sentence in prison.

When the law was changed in 2009 in the Delhi High Court, it was seen as a landmark judicial change, with it symbolising progressive movements towards equality between those of all sexual orientations, and was commended on the world stage by the UN and heads of state alike. For many, it was seen also as progressive step for addressing problems associated with a lack of equal human rights for homosexuals in India.

The UN has regarded the new move as a significant step back from this progress and has called upon the Indian government to address and review the decision. But it is not just the UN who are appalled. The Indian gay community has taken to the streets in protest, demanding a review and to be treated as equals. The Indian press has taken a similar stance, regarding the demand to reverse the bill as repressive, shameful and archaic.

So with all this opposition, why the change? And what does this change actually tell us about attitudes towards homosexuality in India? Well to be honest, I feel it is just a reflection of the fact that policy does not change attitudes. People need to realise that if there is support and found justifications for a law which repressed and incriminated people for their sexual orientation that was established over 150 years ago, in present day, surely the issues surrounding the legislation are deeper rooted than just maintaining the 2009 court ruling. As much as there was widespread support for the 2009 ruling, as there still is now, there was widespread opposition from political, social and religious groups in vast numbers. Those in opposition have made some wild claims such as an astrologer claiming the ruling would ‘compromise national defence since the soldiers will start having sex with each other’. This is of course is a claim that the media are happy to pick up on as it can be easily be mocked and sounds completely ludicrous, however, paying attention to these radical opinions is not progressive if they wish to identity and overcome those whose opposition holds weight and can form persuasive arguments presented Indian civilians. Religious groups ranging from Muslims, Hindus and Christians all separately claim it compromises their interests and morals. Outside religion, social and political groups argue such relations as not befitting with Indian culture.

From this, in my opinion, what needs to happen is an acknowledgement of cultural differences in attitudes towards groups of people that suffer from varying degrees of discrimination, and a look to bring about policy and social change that is tailored to these unique factors. Pressing for generic human rights bills, which, are encouraged to be embraced by all nations, no matter their culture, creed or history, in my opinion, is a pointless exercise. What needs to be asked is why these attitudes exist? Are their racial, religious or historical reasons and how can these be overcome? Maybe if a more active move was taken to educate people about equal rights for the gay community, rather than just presenting its implementation as a necessity due the fact that a large proportion world has acknowledged this as the right thing to do, maybe people’s attitudes would be more accepting. But maybe the taboo nature of talking about such issues is really what is stopping actual progressive change, with deep-rooted opposition for equality for the gay community not even really being addressed in other areas of the globe, even where there are moves towards gay marriage and so forth.

There is no part of me that supports the Supreme Court’s decision, but I feel it is wrong for the UN and others across the globe to condemn them for doing so without asking the right questions and thinking what can be done to address these issues.



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