New Delhi, 12 December 2013:
Apne Aap calls on Indian Parliamentarians to delete Section 377 I.P.C, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, defining homosexuality as “unnatural offenses” and punishable by a 10-year jail term. India has been independent for sixty-six years.
In our own culture, we never limited ourselves to the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine.” We have gods/goddesses who are both male and female like the Ardhanareshwara. Many of our languages, like Bengali, often didn’t even have “he” or “she”.
We know today that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, are living out real, authentic lives. Yet they continue to be denied employment or a promotion, or are fired, simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender at best, or face physical assault with no legal protection at worst. In fact, many members of the LGBT community are trafficked and sold for sex, simply because of vulnerabilities caused by homelessness or workplace discrimination.
They are bravely speaking up about their sexual orientation and gender and asking not to be punished for either. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned.They are part of the full human continuum of identity and expression.
We emphasize that this change in law should not be done through the court but through our elected Parliament. The last thing we want is the subversion of our democracy in which the judiciary oversteps its boundaries and takes over the work of the elected legislature. We believe that the separation of the judiciary and the legislature is the only safeguard of a healthy democracy. Judges are appointed, not elected.
Parliament has to reverse the wrongs of British colonial laws enacted to control sexuality: on one hand they set up licensed brothels for the sale of disease free women to British soldiers and clerks under the Contagious Diseases Act, and on the other, they banned freely chosen same-sex relationships under Section 377 of the IPC.
As feminists, we ask legislatures to shed their patriarchal bias against those who cannot reproduce. The government needs to distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia and sex and sexual exploitation.
There is much similarity between the challenges of LGBT and Queer people and all women: from health care to harassment to discrimination in the workplace. As feminists know, power over our own minds and bodies comes first. Together, we with LGBT and Queer people are learning the deepest lesson: that there is always the basic patriarchal bias against any sexual expression that can’t end in conception.
It’s time that law passed.