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Temple of Visvanatha, Khajuraho, Central India, 10th century

Homosexuality is generally considered a taboo subject by both Indian civil society and the government. Homophobia is prevalent in India.[1][2] Public discussion of homosexuality in India has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. 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 media[3][4][5] and by Bollywood.[6] On 2 July 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexual intercourse between consenting adults, and this new stand of decriminalisation is applicable throughout the territory of India,[7][8] where Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was adjudged to violate the fundamental right to life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.[9]

Prior to the court ruling, several organisations, including the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, the National AIDS Control Organisation,[10] Law Commission of India,[11] Union Health Ministry,[12] National Human Rights Commission[13] and The Planning Commission of India[14] either implicitly, or expressly came out in support of decriminalising homosexuality in India, and pushed for tolerance and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. India is among countries with a social element of a third gender.

Religion has played a role in shaping Indian customs and traditions. While homosexuality has not been explicitly mentioned in the religious texts central to Hinduism, the largest religion in India, Hinduism has taken various positions, ranging from positive to neutral or antagonistic. Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism says Vikriti Evam Prakriti (Sanskrit: विकृतिः एवम्‌ प्रकृतिः ।) (what seems un-natural is also natural) [source?], which some scholars believe recognises the cyclical constancy of homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities.[15] Historical literary evidence indicates that homosexuality has been prevalent across the Indian subcontinent throughout history, and that homosexuals wereTemplate:When not necessarily considered inferior in any way.[16]

History[edit]

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Legal status[edit]

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Support for Decriminalization[edit]

In September 2006, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and acclaimed writer Vikram Seth came together with scores of other prominent Indians in public life to publicly demand this change in the legal regime.[17] The open letter demands that 'In the name of humanity and of our Constitution, this cruel and discriminatory law should be struck down.' On 30 June 2008, Indian labour minister Oscar Fernandes backed calls for decriminalisation of consensual gay sex, and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for greater tolerance towards homosexuals.[18] On 23 July 2008, Bombay High Court Judge Bilal Nazki said that India's unnatural sex law should be reviewed.[19] The Law Commission of India had historically favoured the retention of this section, but in its 172nd report, delivered in 2000 it recommended its repeal.Template:Citation needed

On 9 August 2008, then health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss campaigned for changing "Section 377" of the Indian penal code, which makes homosexuality an unnatural act and thus illegal. At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, he said, "Section 377 of IPC, which criminalises men who have sex with men, must go."[20] His ministerial portfolio had put him at odds with the Indian Home ministry in seeking to scrap Section 377.[12] In late 2008, he changed his argument saying he does not want the "scrapping" of Section 377 but a mere "modification" of the law treating homosexuality as a criminal offence punishable up to life imprisonment. He said he wants Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to resolve the matter, while he wanted to avoid discord with the home ministry, who said the altered law would then result in an increase in criminal incidences of sodomy or offences involving sexual abuse of children, particularly boys. In doing so he alleged that the law even penalises health workers for "abetting," while making this a cognisable and non-bailable offence. "The entire objective of getting homosexuality decriminalised is primarily to reach out to an estimated 4.5 million MSMs across the country as about 86 per cent HIV/AIDS-affected persons in India are ‘Men Having Sex with Men’ (MSM). My concern is purely on health grounds because Section 377 in its present form interferes with health ministry’s efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS epidemic, as even the doctors treating gay patients could be punished. Hence unless we take appropriate steps it would be difficult to contain the spread of the virus." He added the last comment saying the disease through blood transfusion and parentage declined while the other methods were hindering tackling the epidemic.[21]

The United Nations urged India to decriminalize homosexuality by saying it would help the fight against HIV/AIDS by allowing intervention programmes, much like the successful ones in China and Brazil. Jeffrey O'Malley, director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on HIV/AIDS, said "countries protecting homosexuals from discrimination had better records of protecting them from getting infected by the diseases. [But] unfortunately in India, the rates of new infections among men who have sex with men continue to go up. Until we acknowledge these behaviours and work with people involved with these behaviours, we are not going to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic. Countries which protect men who have sex with men have double the rate of coverage of HIV prevention services — as much as 60%."[22] In talking to The Hindu, he added that "The United Progressive Alliance government here is in a difficult position as far as amending Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is concerned because of the coming elections as any changes could be misrepresented. We need to change the laws, sensitise the police and judiciary....But when discriminatory laws have been removed, marginalised people have got access to treatment and prevention facilities like condoms." Warning of the urgency he said, "India has achieved success in checking the spread of this dreaded disease through commercial sex workers but transmission through gay sex, and injectable-drug users is still an area of concern. Injectable-drug use can also be controlled through targeted interventions but is difficult to control or change people’s sexual orientation."[23]

Decriminalization[edit]

In December 2002 Naz India filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to challenge IPC section 377 in the Delhi High Court.[24] On 4 July 2008, gay activists fighting for decriminalization of consensual homosexuality at the Delhi High Court got a stimulus when the court opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India.[25]

On 2 July 2009, in the case of Naz Foundation v National Capital Territory of Delhi, the High Court of Delhi struck down much of S. 377 of the IPC as being unconstitutional. The Court held that to the extent S. 377 criminalised consensual non-vaginal sexual acts between adults, it violated an individual's fundamental rights to equality before the law, freedom from discrimination and to life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The High Court did not strike down S. 377 completely – it held the section was valid to the extent it related to non-consensual non-vaginal intercourse or to intercourse with minors – and it expressed the hope that Parliament would soon legislatively address the issue.[26]

Coming out and Pride Parades[edit]

In 2005, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who hails from Rajpipla in the Gujarat, publicly came out as gay. He was quickly anointed by the Indian and the world media as the first openly gay royal. He was disinherited as an immediate reaction by the royal family, though they eventually reconciled. He appeared on the American talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 24, 2007,[27] and on BBC Three's Undercover Princes.[28] In 2008, Zoltan Parag, a competitor at the Mr. Gay International contest said that he was apprehensive about returning to India. He said, "Indian media has exposed me so much that now when I call my friends back home, their parents do not let them talk to me".[29]

On 29 June 2008, five Indian cities (Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore and Pondicherry) celebrated gay pride parades. About 2,000 people turned out in these nationwide parades. Mumbai held its pride march on 16 August 2008, with Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley also joining in the festivities.[30] On 4 July 2008, the Delhi High Court, while hearing the case to decriminalize homosexuality, opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India.[25]

Days after the 2 July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict legalizing homosexuality, Pink Pages, India's first online LGBT magazine was released.[31] On 16 April 2009, India's first gay magazine Bombay Dost, was re-launched by Celina Jaitley in Mumbai.[32]

On 27 June 2009, Bhubaneswar, the capital city of the Odisha, saw its first gay pride parade.[33] The same day, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily announced that the Union Home Minister has convened a meeting with the Union Law Ministers, Union Health Ministers and Home Ministers of all states to evolve a consensus on decriminalising homosexuality in India. On 28 June 2009, Delhi and Bangalore held their second gay pride parades, and Chennai – generally considered to be a very conservative city – held its first.[34] Attendance at the pride parades has been increasing significantly since 2008, with an estimated participation of 13,500 people in Delhi and 1,500 people in Bangalore in 2010, and a similar attendance of over 3,000 in Mumbai in 2011.

Mumbai has one of its biggest pride events - Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival which was first held in 2010 in April and the next year from May 25–29, 2011. It is the first queer film festival that is held in a mainstream multiplex theater and screens LGBT films from all over the world. It has been recognized by Interpride as a pride event in India.

Madurai celebrated city's first LGBTQ Rainbow festival on 29-07-2012, Anjali Gopalan inaugurated Alan Turing Rainbow festival and flag offed the Asia's first Gender queer pride parade as a part of Turing Rainbow festival organized by Srishti Madurai a literary and resource circle for alternative gender and sexualities it was established by Gopi Shankar a student of The American College in Madurai to eradicate social discrimination faced by the LGBT community,this is the first parade in Asia to highlight 20 other kinds of genders apart from LGBT.[35] Kolkata Rainbow Pride festival held on 15 July 2012 was attended by more than 1500 people and many online forums like www.Jubwetalk.in, Desiboys, Velvet were present to support the cause.

Recognition of same-sex couples[edit]

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See also[edit]

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Notes[edit]

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References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Homophobia persists in India despite court reforms, Daily Telegraph, Rahul Bedi, New Delhi
  • Fear and loathing in gay India
  • UN body slams India on rights of gays The Times of India, 24 April 2008
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  • Why should homosexuality be a crime? The Times of India, 18 September 2003
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  • Kusum Ingots v. Union of India, (2004) 6 SCC 254: "An order passed on a writ petition questioning the constitutionality of a Parliamentary Act, whether interim or final, keeping in view the provisions contained in Clause (2) of Article 226 of the Constitution of India, will have effect throughout the territory of India subject of course to the applicability of the Act."
  • Delhi High Court strikes down Section 377 of IPC the Hindu Front Page; Friday, 3 July 2009
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  • 'Expose the Hindu Taliban!' by Ashok Row Kavi
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  • http://www.macaudailytimesnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18780&Itemid=32
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  • 25.0 25.1 Template:Cite web
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  • I'm scared to return to India, Hindustan Times, 1 February 2008
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  • Rainbow Chronicles, Indian Express, 1 February 2008
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