Changing the moral code

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/8/2018 10:21:52 AM IST

 It was a landmark judgment when the Supreme Court on Thursday laid to rest Section 377, that criminalised and discriminated specific sexual acts in private between consenting couples. The striking down of Section 377 should bring an end to the stigma, silence and violence that triggered a sense of shame and loss of self-esteem among those whose natural inclinations made them opt for a different sexual orientation. This law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, forms part of India’s colonial legacy. It was thrust upon the country without any public discussion, and it criminalised the commission of what it called unnatural offences supposedly against the order of nature. The Supreme Court has now modified its import, by decriminalising consensual sexual acts. In its judgment, the court also went beyond the letter of the law. The Supreme Court had decided on the merits of the case and against the backdrop of a world turning away the moral teachings of various religions. Section 377 had been in existence for over 150 years and effectively criminalised non-heteronormative people in India. However, the judgment has not allowed members of the LGBT community out of the woods. In fact, the judgment still hasn’t lifted the ban on same sex marriage, gay or lesbian couples adopting children or make tax and inheritance arrangements that heterosexual people take for granted. The issue of legalising homosexuality is accommodated in a democratic set up and the process of getting the nod from the court helps to further gain acceptability. Section 377 was a colonial law enacted by the British. However today, the British have legalised not only homosexuality but also legally permitted same sex marriage and the right of same sex couples to either adopt children or have children through surrogacy. For the liberal west, the sky is the limit and those ‘straight’ or religious zealots/hypocrites, have to recalibrate their sense of what is natural and unnatural as even use of derogatory terms or indication of dislike can be taken as bias or prejudice and attract serious legal action. At a wider level, the judgment ought to be framed in the context of a blow against religious conservatism that not only frowns on homosexuality but that is also intolerant and exclusive to what is described as ‘unnatural sex’. The issue has also divided the church as much as it has also divided society. Homosexuality is described as ‘unnatural sex’ and a crime punishable under relevant laws in several countries. Years back, the union home ministry had described homosexuality a disease and as an indecent behaviour in society, and also claimed that homosexuals comprise only 0.3 per cent of the population and that the right of rest 99.7 per cent population cannot be compromised for them. This elicited howls of protests from the vocal LGBT community and the liberal media. The judgment of the Supreme Court is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir state, as it is governed by Ranbir Penal Code. Similarly, it also should not be applicable in Nagaland since Article 371A safeguards the state from any law that interferes with the customary laws and practises of the tribes. The Supreme Court judgment in India was mainly borne out of the PIL, which was part of an unending crusade taken out in the courts, media and the streets.


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