India recognises three genders but homosexuality is still banned. Despite Pride Marches, gay film festivals and many activists speaking out against the repressive colonial-era Sec 377, homosexuality remains not only a legal offence but is considered a moral sin.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), established under the British rule in 1860, makes it illegal to take part in sexual activities which are ‘against the order of nature’, which includes homosexual relations. This section was decriminalized in July 2009 by the Delhi High Court. Although it was overturned by the Supreme Court in December, 2015, a final hearing in February 2016 determined that the issue would be re-examined by a five-member constitutional bench.
In an attempt to understand why people from the LGBT community are still discriminated against and the perceptions regarding homosexuality in India, I conducted an informal survey. I reached out about 294 people and the results of the survey are as follows:
1. 45% of respondents were acquainted with someone from the LGBT community. Half of the respondents knew someone who is gay but has not come out to their parents.
We can infer that people are more open to telling their friends about their sexual orientation rather than their parents. This inference is further strengthened by the finding that more than half of the people surveyed did not know of a single parent who would be accepting of the fact that their child was gay.
2. However, 19% did know of accepting parents and 21% have heard of such parents from their friends.
This finding comes as pleasant surprise, and with increased awareness, it is likely that these numbers will increase.
3. 33% of respondents said they frequently come across people who make uninformed, insensitive jokes about homosexuality.
Furthermore, the findings showed that a lot of Indians are unaware about how sexual orientations develop. The sheer amount of jokes made at the expense of homosexual persons shows the lack of respect for them as human beings.
4. 6.5 % of the respondents believed that homosexuality is a disorder and 71% thought it is a conscious choice made by people. Only 30.8 % people acknowledged that it is genetically triggered.
This reflects the lack of awareness people have about homosexuality. Scientific research conducted to understand the roots of homosexuality has found a genetic component, as well as evidence of prenatal hormonal exposure. Environmental factors are also responsible for a person’s sexual orientation.
5. 69.3% of the respondents voted social anxiety as the villain, closely followed by religion and superstition.
Respondents were asked what they thought was the reason for the negativity towards homosexuals. Social anxiety, such as fear of rejection by peers due to their sexual orientation emerges as the number one fear.
6. 60.8% of people promised to defend a member of the LGBT community if they were being bullied, and 4.6% people would definitely befriend a LGBT member, if the opportunity were to present itself. 45% of respondents believe that countries that have legalised gay marriage are happier as societies now.
We live in a society that is not accepting of its citizens’ choices, whether it has to do with fashion, food, careers or sexual orientation. A healthy society is one where citizens are allowed to make informed choices. A person’s sexual orientation is one of them.
7. A majority of young India is seemingly in full support of abolishing Section 377; 65.5% respondents replied positively to this question.
The results of the survey indicate that a majority of the respondents do not have a problem with homosexuality. The LGBT community in India is not a quiet minority and are doing their best to make themselves heard. Hopefully, in the near future, IPC Sec 377 will be scrapped and the LGBT will not be shunned by society but looked upon as equals.
Khushi Desai is a handpicked product of The Bayside Project where we empower the young at heart with the power of storytelling. To become a part of our extended family of unique contributors, call up Prem Madnani at +91 9892913788 or email him on [email protected].