HOMOSEXUALITY: AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

INTRODUCTION

Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behaviour among the people of the same sex. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to an enduring pattern or disposition to experience sexual affection or romantic attractions primarily to people of the same sex. It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviour expressing them, and membership in a community of others who share them. The common term used for homosexuals are ‘gays’, ‘lesbians’, ‘bisexuals’, or ‘transgender’ and collectively known as LGBT people. These fundamental definitions of homosexuals already indicate that this minority group is evenly distributed throughout the entire society. Homosexuals can be both men and women. They exist in all classes, social groups, races, positions, and countries, regardless of their age or origin. Human sexuality is complex. The acceptance of the distinction between desire, behaviour and identity acknowledges the multidimensional nature of sexuality. The fact that these dimensions may not always be congruent in individuals suggests complexity of the issues. The prevalence of homosexuality is difficult to estimate for many reasons, including the associated stigma and social repression, the unrepresentative samples surveyed and the failure to distinguish desire, behaviour and identity. The figures vary between age groups, regions and cultures. Medicine and science continue to debate the relative contributions of nature and nurture, biological and psychosocial factors, to sexuality. Essentialist constructs argue for biology and dismiss personal and social meanings of sexual desire and relationships. On the other hand, constructivists support the role of culture and history. While essentialism and constructionism, on the surface appear contradictory, they may mediate orientation and identity, respectively.

HOMOSEXUALITY IN INDIA

Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon. Even instances of homosexuality are available in Hindu Mythology. The literature drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and modern fiction also testifies the presence of same-sex love in various forms. Ancient texts such as the Manu Smriti, Arthashastra, Kamasutra, Upanishads and Puranas refer to homosexuality. Also, there are reports that same-sex activities are common among sannyasins, who cannot marry. Thus, instances of homo sexuality are available in historical and mythological texts world over and India is not an exception to this. The Cultural residues of homosexuality can be seen even today in a small village Angaar in Gujarat where amongst the Kutchi community a ritualistic transgender marriage is performed during the time of Holi festival. This wedding which is being celebrated every year, for the past 150 years is unusual because Ishaak, the bridegroom and Ishakali the bride are both men.

The history is filled with evidences proving the existence of homosexuality in past. Whereas in the past 10 years world over, for the lesbian and gay rights, we find that the legal initiatives have shifted from the right to be privately sexual, that is the right to have same-sex relationships at all, to the right to be individual civic subjects, protected from discrimination in the work place and in the provision of services, toward the right to have relationships given status by the law. This shift in rights-focus, from decriminalization, to civil protection, to civil recognition is, not entirely a linear one. Thus, in recent years a number of jurisdictions had relaxed or eliminated laws curbing homosexual behaviour.

In India, so far, no such progressive changes have taken place as regards social and legal recognition and homosexuals remain victims of violence in different forms supported by the state and society. In India from a scattered group of a few hundred, homosexuals are at present ten crore strong and growing community evolving its own hip and happenings. They are weaving there way from metros into semi-urban societies both online as well as offline. This number is gradually increasing with more and more such people coming out of the closet. While Delhi and Mumbai (with five lakh gays each) and, to a lesser extent, Bangalore and Calcutta are the hub of the Indian gay movement, people from smaller towns in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar are also coming out. These Indian gays are talking live in chat rooms, looking for soul mates, falling in love, having sex on the net and crossing cities to be with each other in real world.

This shows that homosexual relationships are not unheard of in India, but they generally exist in the country’s larger cities where people can be more open about their sexuality. A number of cities and larger towns, such as Karnataka, Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Patna, Lucknow, Akola, Trichi and Gulbarga, had a number of resources for gays, lesbians and transgender communities that include – help-lines, newsletters, health resources, social spaces and drop-in centres. In recent past the homosexual community of Calcutta, Mumbai and Bangalore also hosted the gay pride march. All the above instances show that the homosexual community in India is visible and is gradually becoming vocal in their demand. There is a growing realisation that homosexuality is not a single phenomenon and that there may be multiple phenomena within the construct of homosexuality.

. Same-sex relation is not western import rather ancient texts suggest that it existed in India since Vedic period. The Rig Veda tends to celebrate individual deities but when it does celebrate pairs, they are predominantly same sex pairs. In the pre-Vedic and Vedic period, sexuality was based on pleasure and not on procreativity. On the question of a yoni or non-vaginal sex, Hindu law appears to contradict directly the epic and puranic stories. References to homosexual relation can be found in the work Kama Sutra written by Vatsyayan in the second part of chapter nine, entitled Auparishtaka. The homosexual acts are scorned for Brahmans and people of god repute by Kama Sutra. Manu Smriti prescribes punishments for homosexual relations whether between men or between women. The punishments, however, are not so severe as prescribed for adultery, rape, and other sexual offences under the Manu Smriti.

The Sushruta Samhita, a highly respected medical text mentions the two different types of homosexual man viz.  Kumbhika men who take the passive role in anal sex and Asekya men who devour the semen of other men, as well as transgender Sandha men with the quality’s behaviour and speech of women. Homoerotism got official patronage with the Arabic, Persian, and Islamic cultural invasions into the Indian subcontinent in medieval period. Scattered references to homosexual relation are found in the literature of the early medieval period, while in the late medieval period one can find a huge body of literature on homoerotism.

The sculpture of medieval period two suggests the homoerotism in that period. The thousand-year-old carvings seen in the Khajuraho temple constructed by the Chandela rulers of medieval India carry images of women erotically embracing other women and men displaying their genitals to each other. With the start of British colonization, the destruction of the images of homosexual expression and sexual expression in general became more systematic. The last two decades saw swift changes in socio-political life of men who have sex with men in India. These changes are due to two major factors: the changing social milieu, India is witnessing and the concern for HIV/AIDS.

With the solidification of groups in different parts of country some effort was made to make them more visible in society. With the support of some progressive human rights groups, the sexual minorities are also making attempts to change the attitudes of society towards them.

In the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India[1], the Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation via the category of ‘sex’. Gender identity, in our view, is an integral part of sex and no citizen can be discriminated on the ground of gender identity.

THEORITICAL EXPLAINATION OF HOMOSEXUALITY

The causes of sexual orientation are currently under investigation. The general understanding is that there is symphony of factors that act over a long time to determine each individual’s sexual orientation. Nurture, Nature or some combination of the two is often thought to determine human sexual behaviour. Researches suggests that homosexuality is largely genetic in origin and it also states further that individuals with homosexual genes will feel less inclined to behave heterosexually and will thus reproduce less frequently.[2] Investigations using psychological tests could not differentiate heterosexual from homosexual orientation. Research also demonstrated that people with homosexual orientation did not have any objective psychological dysfunction or impairments in judgement, stability and vocational capabilities. Psychiatric, psychoanalytic, medical and mental health professionals now consider homosexuality as a normal variation of human sexuality. Findings also suggest that homosexual men are feminized where as other study found that homosexual men and homosexual women are masculine. Another cause stated is imitation, a major mechanism of cultural transmission, which also accounts for some homosexual behaviour. Irregular levels of sex hormones during the development of the child in the womb has also been cited as an influence. Family upbringing may also have an effect by failing to produce a strong sense of being male in the growing child or by inducing guilt about early heterosexual contacts or by blocking initial heterosexual behaviour. Experiences outside the family may also, of course, encourage homosexual behaviour.

CONCLUSION

The legal battle concerning decriminalization of homosexuality has succeeded. Today it is the most sensitive, controversial and debatable issue of high concern as the onus to do justice involves issues of fundamental rights of LGBT people in our socio-legal system. Homosexuality was considered as a taboo subject, by both Indian civil society as well as our legal system. Public discussion of homosexuality has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly in our country.


[1] AIR 2018 SC 4321.

[2] As per study conducted by Dean Hamer in 1994, wherein he studied 40 pairs of homosexual brothers, reports that 33 pairs shared a set of five genetic markers. Hamer concluded that genetics played ‘‘some role’’ in a minority of gays. Source : DeanHamer and P. Copeland The Science Of Desire: The Search For The Gay Gene And The Biology Of Behavior (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994).

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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