“God doesn’t make mistakes and has made each of us in his own image. God is simply love. There should be no fear in love.” — Martin O’Malley
A study found that out of the world population of 7.7 billion people, 97.4% of men are heterosexual, 1.6% are homosexual, 0.9% are bisexual, 97.7% of women are heterosexual 0.8% are lesbian and 1.4% are bisexual. Though the Indian LGBTQI population is roughly estimated to be 4.8 million, we don’t have a clear picture of it as many of them do not disclose their actual sexual orientation. It is due to a notion in Indian society that homosexuality is a sin. In many parts of the country, homosexuality is considered a disorder. There have been many cases in which renowned politicians and spiritual leaders have termed homosexuality as a mental condition. It is this stigma LGBTQI society is associated with which makes them look down upon.
Homosexuality is as old as the Vedas. According to research, it was around 3102 BC that homosexuality was recognized as “Tritiya Prakriti” or the third nature. Temples constructed between the 6th and 14th centuries in Tamilnadu had explicit depictions of homosexuality carved on their walls including those deemed unnatural by modern law and considered obscene by society. Even in Indian mythological texts like Mahabharata, reference of homosexual characters is found. For instance, Shikhandi is the queer woman who kills Bheeshma in Kurukshetra.
According to a survey on sexual violence in our country, 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women have been sexually abused. 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have been victims of molestation. Many more cases go unregistered due to the fear of disbelief. The fear of being judged, being bullied, being sexually assaulted, being disowned by their very own family, being unemployed is what is hindering them to be what they are.
Out of all the oppression and tyranny, rose the LGBTQI movement. On August 11, 1992, the first known protest for gay rights in India was held. It was sparked off by the police picking up men on suspicion of homosexuality which was a normal practice back then. In 1994, a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) was filed in Delhi high court challenging the constitutional validity of section 377. It was one of the first legal protests against the government repression of the LGBTQI community. Section 377 of IPC which criminalizes homosexuality, was introduced by the Law Commission of the British colonial rule.
The Indian constitution mandates justice, social, economic and political equality of status. After a prolonged struggle the supreme court of India advocated that the rights and freedoms of transgender people in India are protected under the constitution and finally in September 2018, the Supreme court called off section 377.
Though there were many arguments against the ruling off of section 377, it was welcomed by many broad-minded individuals and organizations throughout the nation, especially Bollywood. Bollywood is one of the major influencers in the country and had performed its role right by making some appreciable films like Aligarh (2015), Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019), Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaan (2020), etc which have proved to be eye-openers for many. The first Indian film portraying homosexuality to be released was Fire(1998). It is a love story of two queer women in a rural Indian backdrop. When this film was released, Shiv Sena vandalized the theatres screening this film. Instead of restoring order Maharashtra’s then chief minister congratulated them for what they have done. This has led to more queer individuals to raise the voice against the brutality.
It is a lesser-known fact that the first Mughal emperor Babur was a homosexual. His love for a teenage boy was mentioned in his memoirs. Many popular celebrities have lately revealed their sexuality. Indian athlete Dutee Chand openly accepted that she is in a same-sex relationship. Mahendra Singh Gohil, son, and heir of Maharaja of Rajpipla in Gujarat is the world’s first openly gay prince. Gauri Sawant, a famous LGBTQI activist is the first-ever transgender to adopt a child. Indian novelist and poet Vikram Seth revealed he was gay. He had written, “To not be able to love the one you love is to have wrenched your life away.”
It is a huge achievement of the LGBTQI community that many homosexuals who were once afraid of identifying themselves as one, are now coming out of the closet. Many popular actors, politicians, lawyers, sportspersons are now accepting their actual sexuality which is quite a good sign as this would encourage common people still in dark rooms to come into the light.
The plight of the LGBTQI community has tremendously improved in India over the years. Its voice has been amplified loud enough to be heard not only by our country but also the rest of the world and make a difference. The credit goes to all the social activists and NGOs which have put their best foot forward to make this happen. Despite all this progress, there is a long way to go until every individual takes pride to be a part of the gender community he belongs to.