Section 377 verdict removes an albatross from many necks, but expect empire of majoritarianism to strike back
As politicians hedge their bets, align against the minority, echo their regrets and up the ante of mockery and snide bias, the havens will disappear.
Today, the Supreme Court struck down parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and removed an albatross around many necks. It said in simple words: if two consenting adults wish to engage in sex, then stay out of their way.
Regrettably, all hell could break loose. Even as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ members celebrate—and there's absolutely no reason as to why they should not mark the end of the mental and physical torture that this cruel law allowed for 158 years—the keynote of the awesome forward thinking decision of the five-member bench is its diktat to the central government and through it, to the states in the Indian union is thus: spread the word and let the executive echo the judiciary.
But the way politicians have ducked this issue and have laid low does not augur well for the dispensation of this message. The fear is two-fold: When it was underground and elusive through secrecy, there was comparatively little overt violence nor was there much legal action against offenders. The unspoken agreement of ‘don’t see, don’t tell’ had its own level of tolerance and was a haven.
Paradoxically, now that it is no longer needs to be hush-hush (legally), the witch-hunt gets more impetus. The element of gratuitous violence tends to spike as self-appointed holier-than-thou mandarins link sexual inclination to religion and moan about the freedom sanctioned for these ‘unnatural’ activities. Whether we like it or not, when even educated people like activist Rahul Easwar want to "run out deviants", as he calls them, and refuses to acknowledge the genetic proclivity as no big deal, then imagine the rest of India—both middle and lower classes—who are drenched in prejudice over generations.
The optics, thanks to the caricature, are gross. Many Indians today will be thinking: oh my goodness, those hand-clapping, wrist waving, swishing armies will invade our city streets and destroy our precious "culture". We reserve our worst profanity for gay bashing. Freudian? Your guess is as good as mine. But even when the police wish to insult citizens, they use epithets with homosexual connotations.
That this projection is so far from the truth as to be utterly ludicrous is not going to make any difference. We perpetuate these ugly stereotypes through denial. Take, for example, our failure to cross the turbulent river of caste. The anti-brigade will load up on moral righteousness and those who practice their version of sex—earlier in the crosshairs of the justice system—will now be seen as targets for vigilantes, who are having a good run in today's India.
Don’t expect this government to bring out the bunting and decorate the halls of ‘infamy’ with holly. Instead, prepare for a civil war, much in the same way the cattle traders are beaten and lynched, to protect what the apex court terms majoritarianism and what the rest of us call savagery.
And herein lies the irony. As politicians hedge their bets, align against the minority, echo their regrets and up the ante of mockery and snide bias, the havens will disappear. The same majoritarianism will grow into a new dimension of social terrorism if we do not stand by the law and honour it.
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