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Same sex love and future of queer activism in India
In Cochin, the industrial capital of Kerala, where I was a postgraduate student of Political Science, many times I have seen hostel inmates rushing into the lone college playground located just in front of the hostel. There, I have seen inmates beating, abusing, and forewarning, a whole lot of aggressive brutality that young hostel inmates poured on unfortunate same sex lovers who come there to share their 'solidarity'.

Such people were locally labelled ‘flute’ in Cochin area in Kerala. It was disappointing. However, I was not able to understand what these people are doing in a society that imposes hetero-normative sexuality.

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In the campus, I have heard of college mates saying, this and that are lesbians and they share intimate relations. Hailing from the remote areas of Kerala, it was quite strange those days and unbelievable for young people like us who have always reason to believe that ‘intimate relationships’ exist only between men and women.

It was quite strange for us, when inmates of girls Hostel complain that in nights, men appear nude in front of the room window and they were labelled ‘showmen’ in the vicinity. At times, we came to know that gigolo, i.e. a young man paid or financially supported by an older woman to be her escort or lover.

However, as society progresses, we have heard of men and women making extra marital relations, people having many at a time, pre-marital sex, post-marital sex. Now, use and throw culture has almost engulfed in the phantom advances of commoditisation and consumerism.

Yet, among the evangelists and apostles of all moral empires and spiritual fortresses, the rights of one section seems inadvertently significant, the rights of marginalised sexual minorities that stands at the fringes and periphery of the hetero-normative sexual social hierarchy.

As we grow up, we become illiberal. The education we get make all of us shrink into ourselves. Never ever, we get to bother about a more progressive and inclusive society that is more liberal towards every individual who have their own reason to do things that majority frowns upon. Similar is the case with the way we deal with lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, inter-sexes, and queer (LGBTIQ). The plight of same sex lovers is disappointing in particular.

Sex and the city

Sex is the most favourite keyword in Google search in Indian cities like, Chennai, Pune, New Delhi and Calcutta and the most favourite key words among the digital nomads of Indian Internet are sex, porn, rape, gang rape, and MMS, according to statistics provided by Google Trends. Shockingly, India tops in the world for keyword like teenage sex, porn, sexual relationship, with Delhi being number one in cities of the world followed by Chennai. Further, analysis using Google Trend leads to conclusions telling good or bad about the growing passion for sex in India.

Among this, despite all this oddities in the name of sex, the existing social prejudice against sexual minorities are still shimmering and bracing up in India and is stimulating new power relations in respect of sexuality and gender. We claim sexual freedom, but what about those of sexual minorities.

Gay lovers are fighting for escape against oppressive regimes. Lesbians run away from small towns to get spaces that are more open at cities. Women leave their remote villages to become men at cosmopolitan cities. Men leave off their homes to become women at more progressive spaces at cities. Hijras move on to the city for openness and fair spaces.

Looking at queer politics in India is to look back at traditions. Queer movements in contemporary India operate in a status of semi-invisibility, as the traditional culture still put across strong concept of hetero-normality that penetrates all sections of society. Now, the hope remains with cities. When cities represent the complex embarrassments of our time, villages are its “other”.

In Hindu and Vedic texts, descriptions of heavenly forces transcending gender norms and manifesting multiple combinations of sex and gender makes India a natural home of third sex. However, eventual exposure to foreign influence eroded the friendly ecology of third sex. The people of third sex, despite have been constructively incorporated into ancient Indian society and Vedic knowledge systems, eventually become most discarded social groups distanced from mainstream.

In search of solidarity, usually gay, lesbians and transgender people risk getting into places and situations that are problematic, like public toilets and parks and are easy bait for extortion by police officers and brutal treatment by a whole lot of misinformed people and victimisation under public stereotypes.

Nonetheless, in the attempt to uphold basic rights, minority sexual communities are attempting their best to keep up their right to namelessness, anonymity, freedom of speech, right to articulate emotional vibrancy, right to sexual health, right to resist stigma against marginal sexualities, etc. Yet, the mainstream still not bothers about them.

On this inhospitable, intolerant social attitude, and hetero-normative sexual prejudices, the ruling of Delhi High Court (HC) has been much relief to same sex lovers. It got new stimulus lesbians, gay, bi-sex, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTQI) in 2009.

Adult consensual homosexual relations were decriminalised in the Indian Penal Code and with the ruling of the Delhi HC; there were about 2.5 million same sex people that likely to benefit from those ruling. This ruling by the Delhi High Court has, therefore seen as a landmark in the Indian queer movement.

The Indian media has celebrated the 2009 Delhi High Court ruling on decriminalizing same sex relationship and leading media entities have upheld the ruling. It is perverse to penalise adults for their sexual choices, reports Times of India. It is not a crime to be gay, headlined Hindustan Times, (02 July 2009). The Indian express opines that Constitution does not allow law to be held captive by popular misconceptions and prejudice (Sitapati 03 Jul 2009).

Same-sex marriages are not recognized. In fact, a court in Haryana recognised a lesbian marriage in 2011 (Dash and Yadav 29 Jul 2011). Despite the High Court rule that decriminalised consensual sex between gay men by repealing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the public display of affection is still not doable for such people.

Despite the law, homophobic attitudes persist in Indian society and the LGBTQI community faces discrimination from their relatives, families, peers, employers, neighbourhood, police and society in general. Certainly, in urban India, there is some openness towards homosexuality, but it remains a taboo in rural areas.

Yet, among all this oddities, new forms of identity as well as intimate relations are fomenting all the time. Be it sexually active women, teenage and adult homosexuals, closeted and open bisexuals, people with multiple sex partners, part-time or full-time sex workers, cross-generation lovers, devout nudists, hard-line body modificationists, etc., all have found a common ground to build their solidarity. The majority have natural responsibility to respect them in liberal society.

However, the Supreme Court verdict making same sex love an offence under Indian penal code makes serious survival challenges to communities. This also calls for strong queer movement in India. At present, the movement is invisible to significant extent. There is no wider acceptance among the larger public for such movements.

The city origin of sexual India perhaps grows enough to be cosmopolitan to afford the sexual minorities. The criticisms on the verdict from various corners are signs of hope. Politicians and media criticised the position of court. People, communities, activists, intellectuals have showed their solidarity with same sex and third genders.

USA has decriminalised same sex in 1993. Many States in USA has done it even 1980s. UK abolished it in 1967. However, many countries that have a colonial past are looking India as a role model on the question of same sex love. This is time to show the liberal tradition and cosmopolitanism we have. As a society, let us show we love diversity and plurality in the modern world.

Now, there are strong reasons and common grounds for the sexual minorities to find new solidarities. They got wider attention; especially their reasons were widely discussed. Hope we might be more tolerant and liberal.

About the contributor: Biju P R, teaches Political Science at Government Brennen College, Thalassery, Kerala. Researches on social media and political interfaces in the Indian context. Currently writing two books on the same theme. (Clicking Alone: Mechanics of protest and change in digital India) and (ConnectivePolitics: Reflections on digital public in India).

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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