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Homosexuality and Modern Society

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Homosexuality is nothing but sexual attraction towards the person of one’s own sex. It is generally considered taboo in most of the countries of the world. Different societies respond differently to homosexuality. In most of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, both the subject and the behavior are considered taboo, with some slight exception made in urban areas. In Western countries, attitudes were somewhat more liberal. Although the topic of homosexuality was little discussed in the public forum during the early part of the 20th century, it became a political issue in many Western countries during the late 20th century.

Talking about India, public discussion on homosexuality has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. Homosexuals face a tremendous amount of hostility and discrimination. This is the case even among the educated elite of India. In recent years, however, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted slightly. In particular, there have been more depictions and discussions of homosexuality in the Indian news and other media platforms. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code states,”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. Simply put, Section 377 is law that was introduced during the British era in 1860s and makes gay sex a crime for which the punishment can be a life term. In 2009, the Delhi High Court had described Section 377 as a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. Religious groups, however, had appealed against the decision in the Supreme Court.

In 2013, the Supreme Court cancelled the Delhi high court order and re-criminalised homosexuality. It said that it was the job of the parliament to decide on scrapping laws.The decision that gay sex is a criminal offense was seen as a major setback for human rights and was also widely criticized. While prosecutions under section 377 have been rare, activists have said that the police used the law to harass and intimidate members of the LGBT community.After the 2013 Supreme Court’s decision, prominent BJP leader Rajnath Singh had said,”We support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported. On the contrary, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had said,”When millions of people the world over are having alternative sexual preferences, it is too late in the day to propound the view that they should be jailed.Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, P Chidambaram, Shashi Tharoor, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’ Brien, CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat, the Aam Aadmi Party among others had come out in support of the LGBT community and had said that homosexuality should be decriminalized. ( Source : NDTV.com)

Organizations like Naz Foundation Trust,Humsafar Trust, Udaan Trust, Union Health Ministry, The Law Commission of India have come out in support of decriminalizing homosexuality in India.

Religion has played a role in shaping Indian customs and traditions. Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism says Vikruti Evam Prakriti (what seems un-natural is also natural), which some scholars believe recognizes the cyclical constancy of homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities. Historical literary evidence indicates that homosexuality has been prevalent across the Indian subcontinent throughout history, and that homosexuals were not necessarily considered inferior in any way. When we discuss the very famous epic, Mahabharata, Urvashi – one of the prettiest ‘apsaras’ at King Indra’s palace, cursed Arjuna that he will be eunuch for the rest of his life and could only dance and sing with women. Later, on constant pleas of Indra, Urvashi reduced the curse for one year. Hence, homosexuality is not a new concept in our country.

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