Last edited: September 11, 2003

No ‘Unnatural’ Sex Please, We Are Indians! 

Hindustan Times, September 11, 2003

Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi—Sexually adventurous Indians may be unwittingly committing several crimes in the bedroom, including some punishable with life imprisonment.

If the Government has its way, homosexuality, oral sex and anal sex, which are increasingly an accepted form of sexual behaviour in many parts of the world, will not be legalised in India just yet.

The Government’s contention in a court that homosexuality should not be legalised as it was not accepted by Indian society has outraged not only the gay community but many who believe the state should keep out of the bedroom.

The Government was responding this week to a petition questioning Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deems “voluntary sex against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” a criminal offence to be punished with imprisonment for life or up to 10 years.

“We expected nothing better from this Government than the old bogey of Indian culture and society that is completely divorced from scientific realities,” Aditya Bandopadhyay, a member of the Lawyers’ Collective HIV/AIDS unit that formulated the petition for the NGO Naz foundation, said.

“How can you criminalise a whole community when it is scientifically, sociologically, anthropologically and historically accepted that homosexuality is not a depravity or an aberration?”

The petition, filed in 2001, argued that consenting homosexual acts should be legalized because the fear of arrest and harassment from the police had driven gay people underground, hampering the anti-AIDS campaign.

Responding after a long time, the Government told the court that Indian society was “intolerant” towards homosexuality and repealing the law would “open the floodgates of delinquent behaviour”.

It was argued that this was the only law against child abuse and male rape.

But Bandopadhyay retorted, “Why not frame separate laws for child abuse and male rape? Anyhow homosexuals and victims of male rape are harassed by the police.”

The Section under consideration also bans acts such as oral sex and anal sex that could be described as “unnatural” since they were not “penal-vaginal”.

Said Sarah Fernandes, a students’ counsellor, “Is this a police state? Why should the Government decide how or who do I have sex with?”

Echoing the indignation, bank executive Yogesh Mishra said the law could not dictate what consenting adults did in their bedrooms.

“People have the right to choose their sexual behaviour. In a progressive society, such a law is redundant and should be dumped post-haste.”

The petition said the sodomy law was at cross-purposes with the fundamental right to life and liberty.

“The Government’s view is shocking and effectively means sex should be only for procreation, not pleasure,” said Lok Prakash, technical consultant with the Naz Foundation International.

Stating that this attitude was detrimental even to heterosexuals, Prakash remarked that, legally, even a husband and wife could not have anything but conventional sex.

This is a strange irony for the land that produced the most ancient treatise on sex, the Kamasutra of Vatsayana, and the renowned Khajuraho temples that depict most explicit, and no-holds-barred acts of lovemaking.

Noted sexologist Prakash Kothari refers to instances of homosexuality, premarital sex and alternative sexual behaviour in Indian mythology as well as scriptures.

“It is true that many acts are not accepted by society today, but between mutually consenting adults, oral sex etc are acceptable sexual behaviour,” he said.

“There is nothing like unnatural sex between adults—only alternative sex.”

Kothari pointed out that it was better to have homosexuals satisfying their relationship in their own way than becoming “destructive heterosexuals”.

“Laws are meant for citizens’ comfort and not discomfort. Under the present scenario, IPC Section 377 needs to be abolished.”

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