In a country where progress and regress continue to share a path, the voice of the people who believe in equality keeps challenging cultural prejudices
In the year 2013 during the month of December, the Supreme Court of Delhi decided to take a regressive step by recriminalizing section 377 of the Indian penal code. Taking India by shock, this 150-year-old act was recriminalized once again after the 2008 decision of decriminalising the act of consensual gay sex.
But what is section 377 of the Indian penal code?
‘377. Unnatural offences.—Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine‘.
This put in simpler words means, if any individual has voluntary intercourse, which is classified as not natural, such as a man and a man or a woman and a woman, they can be put in jail. Sounding completely absurd to the citizens of India, the secular country ironically put forward the argument that homosexuality is against Indian culture and actually goes against the idea of what a ‘natural’ relationship stands for.
Putting the LGBT community to the forefront for extortion and threats, the clear violation of human rights angered many other communities within the country and they decided to speak up and show their views on the issue through tweets, satires and short films.
One of the very first and most popular comments on the topic, was a video from the comedy group AIB (All India Bakchod), who very creatively did a parody of a typical Q and A video calling it ‘AIB : Imran Khan Answers Questions About Being Gay & Sec 377′. The group of stand-up comics decided to phrase out ridiculous questions about homophobia. For example: ‘why do these gay people choose to be gay, why can’t they like ungay’. And hilariously gave sarcastic answers like ‘walk over to your nearest gay person and flick the switch, gay to straight’, sending a strong message about the equal rights of homosexuals in a humorous way. The viral video made a huge impact around India and gave people the encouragement to speak about an important human rights issue.
But just like any issue, the topic died down during the three-year period. New issues came into the spotlight and act 377 took a backseat. However just when we thought people forgot about act 377, recently the fashion company Myntra decided to touch upon the topic of same-sex couples. The ‘Anouk – Bold is Beautiful’ ad campaign was the first ever marketing strategy within India to touch on the idea of same-sex couples. The viral advert doesn’t satirise the idea of homosexuality, neither does it present itself as a PSA. Keeping the authenticity of the Indian culture, the short advert introduces the idea of two cosmopolitan girls in a relationship who have the intention of revealing it to their parents. Focusing on the anxiety and nervousness of the couple, the advert really showcases the normality of these types of feelings. It wanted to represent the girls like any other heterosexual couple that is shown in the media, thereby making a necessary first step towards public acceptance of same-sex relationships.
By 2020 India will be the youngest democracy in the world, constantly being torn between modern and traditional beliefs. Basic human rights are sometimes sacrificed in the war of traditions and in the end it’s not always an easy black and white situation.
India’s 29 states are a melting pot of thoughts, values and beliefs that are constantly being changed, improved and discussed. Now that people are finally debating, protesting and projecting their opinions on difficult topics, it shows to the world the progressive attitude India has, and this is the kind of push in the right direction towards equality that a growing democratic society needs.