LGBT vs India
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Being LGBT - what does this mean? Sometimes it means losing your loved ones. Becoming a joke in the family. Being called names and abused by strangers. Being punished. Being sent for conversion therapy. Going to jail. Being killed.
Even today, in this “modern” world, many of these sentences are deeply familiar to many people around the world. Children, who can not help but be the way they are, have to struggle to make the world realise that they are perfectly normal and there is nothing wrong with them. The fight is eternal and often times tiring. So much so that children born this way start lying to themselves. They start living a life being who they are not.
Children, as well as adults, in many places around the world are severely punished for their sexual orientation, even today. First they are shunned or tortured at home or in their communities, and then the law criminalises their love, with the punishment ranging from life imprisonment to death.
Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1860, introduced during the British rule in India, criminalises sexual activities "against the order of nature", arguably including homosexual sexual activities.The section was decriminalized with respect to sex between consenting adults by the High Court of Delhi on July 2009. Then in December 2013, that judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India, with the Court holding that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.
Recently, India’s Supreme Court issued a historic ruling confirming the right of the country’s LGBT people to express their sexuality without discrimination. Judges ruled that sexual orientation is covered under clauses in the Indian Constitution that relate to liberty. The ruling paves the way for discriminatory practices against LGBT people to be challenged in the courts.
Hence the two laws become conflicting.
But was it always like this? The Indian world view since ancient times has had space for every imaginable entity. These entities range from social to scientific and from imaginary to mathematical. This is why it is curious in modern times to find certain ways of life regarded as unnatural or taboo here. This is what the India that was, does not share with modern India.
According to India’s bestselling mythologist, Devdutt Pattanaik (in his book “Shikhandi and Other Stories”) in ancient India, gender was a fluid concept. If one were to go through the ancient texts and holy scriptures, one would find various instances where famous deities change genders for certain purposes. We have stories of Shiva bathing in river Yamuna to become a woman and dance with Krishna. We have stories of Narada emerging from a pond as a woman to discover the cosmos. In the Kritivas Ramayana, there is a story of two women who make love to each other in the absence of their husband and produce a child.
These stories suggest that in ancient India, the lines dividing males from females and heterosexual from homosexual were blurred. Masculinity and Femininity are only labels applied to bodies occupied by eternal souls.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna not be arrogant, he tells him that there is much more to this universe than the human mind can fathom. Though the human mind can create boundaries, reality is diverse and can contain everything. There is nothing unnatural if it exists, and every way of being is the manifestation of the divine.