Indian Gays and Lesbians: Pushed Back into the Closet.

 (sanjay austa austa)

(The story first appeared in the Bangkok Post  Dec 2013) 

If one thought of gays in India, one thought of spike -haired, multi – tattooed, pink- shirted youths with  coyish sing-song speech and exaggerated mannerisms. People who  celebrated their queerness with  a  flourish  and  had a certain in-your face show of defiance.

Their idols were famous   fashion designers like Rohit Bal,  David  Abraham, Manish Arora who   brazenly flaunted  their gay status. Such was these designer’s   charisma in the fashion industry,  that being gay was said to be an advantage for a beginner.

But far away from the glitz and glamour of the fashion world there were millions of gays and lesbians who seethed in silent desperation. They did not bleach their hair, tattoo their  skin, or exhibit  any of the  homosexual traits that are a staple of Bollywood  stereotyping.

They were regular people-next-door with regular looks and regular jobs and regular middle-class aspirations.  Many of them lived in small towns and villages with muffled up  identities.  So in 2009 when the  Delhi High Court passed a  judgment on section 377, and  decriminalized homosexuality, it  was the day this silent majority finally found a voice.  A big weight had been lifted off them.  Section 377 , drafted in 1861 by Lord Macaulay  was a colonial law which  criminalized  “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.

But on  Dec 11 2013,  the Indian  Supreme court pushed all  Indian  gay men and women, back into the closet. It overturned the progressive 2009  Delhi High Court ruling  and  re-criminalizing homosexual behavior.  Over 50 million  homosexuals in India were condemned to being criminals again. The judgment has however shocked everyone  and spontaneous protests on and offline have erupted all over the country.

Question is being asked why consenting adults in the world’s largest democracy can’t decide for themselves what they want to do in bed?  That was India becoming a nanny state?   Writer Vikram Seth himself a gay remarked, ”Today is a great day for prejudice and inhumanity”.

But the damage it has done to the invisible middle-class gay men and women who had just emerged from the shadows is immeasurable. “ I wanted to cry when I heard the verdict”, says Shre Nik, a 29 year old filmmaker.  “ It took a lot of effort on my part to convince my mother about homosexuality and just when they were coming to terms with my status this  judgment comes . Suddenly I am a criminal. We have gone back 200 years in time with this judgment”, he says.

Walid , 29,  research scholar was not so fortunate. His family never  understood his point of view. His father  told him bluntly that if he spoke about homosexuality again he would stab him.  The Supreme Court judgment  has only hardened their stand and they have already begun to send him  we-told-you-so feelers.

“My father told me clearly that he would rather have me dead than have me a homosexual. He said our religion is against it and that was enough”, says Walid.


He says the judgment will only give excuse to the police to exploit and intimidate the LGBT community.   “We wont be able to have our gay get-togethers or parties anymore without the fear of being busted by the cops. They will demand bribes off us for whatever we do”, he says.

Agrees Ansh Thakur 30, a businessman who said he has been told by his friends to remove his name from all gay websites lest he be hounded by the police. “ I fear for my safety now. If I am with my partner and we hold hands we can be framed under section 377.  Whatever hope we had after the Delhi High Court judgment has died”, he says.

Ansh also had a difficult time  convincing  his family about his status.  “They love me so have let me be. We don’t talk about homosexuality anymore. Somewhere they  hope that I may become straight and marry a girl and lead a life they have planned for me. This judgment makes me look bad again in front of my family”, he says.

Sambhav Kaalia a student in Delhi says he and his boyfriend broke the news to his family about moving to Spain a few days ago.  They had not wanted him to leave India but after hearing the Supreme Court  judgment they said they would be okay to let them settle in Spain.

“As soon as I heard the news, I imagined the faces of all those young LGBT people who commit suicide everyday not just in the big cities but in those small cities where this law is used to harass them”, he says.

 (sanjay austa austa)

 (sanjay austa austa)

3 Responses to “Indian Gays and Lesbians: Pushed Back into the Closet.”

  1. Rashi Agarwal says:

    No, Indian LGBT community refuses to be pushed back into the closet!
    I read this somewhere: The Indian government can persecute based on sexual preferences but it can never undo the momentum that the Indian gay rights’ movement has gathered over the last four years.

  2. Ansh Thakur says:

    Its a good article Sanjay Austa my good wishes, keep your good work flowing like this. Its a huge support from you my friend. This article Brings back a lot of memories.

  3. Satarupa Sandilya says:

    Very enlightening piece.. It also shows the deep rooted prejudices within the indian society which needs to be uprooted sooner.. It’s all about a person’s individual constitutional rights and choices he/she makes.. How can the parliamentarians be in denial mode instead of taking a tough stand..

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