Persons of the Week: The Anti-Gay Crusaders Who Supported Section 377

Social Commentary

Persons of the Week: The Anti-Gay Crusaders Who Supported Section 377

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Not all superheroes wear capes. Some wear a judge’s robe, and their base of operations isn’t the Batcave, but the Supreme Court of India. The five judges who comprised the bench that struck down Section 377 this week, have done more to bring Acche Din for Indians than… well, any government we’ve had in the last couple of decades. But if every dark cloud has a silver lining, then the reverse must also be true. The Supreme Court’s verdict was a silver cloud, now let’s meet the people who are the dark linings — our joint winners for Person of the Week!

Have you heard the joke where a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Christian and walk into a courtroom to argue against gay rights? There’s no punchline to it, because the joke is on them. Back in 2016, when the Supreme Court made the decision to revisit its 2013 ruling that upheld Section 377, the leaders of religious bodies found themselves in agreement for once. It turns out, dogma is dogma, whatever you believe in.

The primary opposition to the final push to strike down Section 377 has come from orthodox religious bodies. In 2016, it was the Apostolic Churches Alliance, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad who announced they would oppose the curative petitions filed by the Naz Foundation and Navtej Singh Johar. It would seem even those on the wrong side of history are doomed to repeat it, as representatives from religious bodies like Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, All India Organisation of Imam of Mosques, and Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India have issued statements about how the decision to strike down Section 377 goes against Indian culture and morality.

India’s ancient culture is often invoked when justifying opposition to LGBTQ rights, but Section 377 can only be traced back to the Buggery Act of 1533, an English law passed during the reign of Henry VIII. The medieval roots are quite fitting, as most supporters of the law seem to be time-travellers from that period. So tune up your lyre, and send out the town-crier, because this party is going to be a blast from the past.

Every party needs a chief guest, and no one plays the part better than a politician. In that case, we’re drowning in an embarrassment of riches, or rather, a confederacy of dunces. Whom should we pick?

Should we go with Subramanian Swamy, who has referred to homosexuals as both “genetically handicapped” and suffering from a “mental disorder”? Or maybe go even bigger, and have Rajnath Singh. After all, he could use a pick-me-up. He’s in the unenviable position of having declared support for Section 377 while in the Opposition, only to find himself Home Minister of a government under whose watch the landmark judgement was passed. In fact, the chief guest could be anyone, the dais will be a veritable buffet of bigotry; Yogi Adityanath, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and Lalu Prasad Yadav have all been vocal about their views on the undesirability of homosexuality.

India’s ancient culture is often invoked when justifying opposition to LGBTQ rights, but Section 377 can only be traced back to the Buggery Act of 1533, an English law passed during the reign of Henry VIII.

But rather than people who merely condemn homosexuality, our chief guest needs to be a problem-solver. For that, I nominate Baba Ramdev, who has repeatedly stated he can “cure” homosexuality. Maybe in the future, he will “cure” our inability to fly, or our hearts’ pesky tendency to stop beating after being struck by a bullet? Either way, I sense a business opportunity for Patanjali.

The reason there’s so many options to choose from is because even though our courts made history, thinking in India still needs to come a long way before LGBTQ citizens in every corner of the country feel truly free. With any luck, the Supreme Court judgement is the first step in making it clear that homosexuality is not a disease that can be cured, or eradicated, and that it is here to stay. Sadly, the opposition to the judgement is a reminder to the rest of us that stupidity isn’t going anywhere either.

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