Wednesday, November 02, 2005

being gay in india

Pretty boys, witty boys, You may sneer
At our disintegration.
Haughty boys, naughty boys,
Dear, dear, dear!
Swooning with affectation...
And as we are the reason
For the "Nineties" being gay,
We all wear a green carnation.

The gay rights in India are yet to be defined socially and officially, but in recent years there has been a rising demand in India seeking acceptance, tolerance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and related causes. Homosexual relations are technically still a crime in India under an old British era statute dating from 1860 called Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature.' Since this is deliberately vague in the past it has been used against oral sex (heterosexual and homosexual), sodomy, bestiality, etc. The punishment ranges from ten years to lifelong prison.
Recent government and police spokespersons have said that there is a movement to read out consensual homosexual intercourse from coming under the purview of this act. A police spokesperson has said that this section is now only applied in cases involving rape, paedophilia and bestiality. Further, if applied for homosexual intercourse in theory it can not be applied against the passive, penetrated partner but only against the active, penetrating partner. However, the government has not made any official statements in this regard and continues to insist that homosexuality is illegal in India and against 'Indian culture', even if in practice it does not prosecute these cases. In spite of the recent changes in public opinion the law continues to be on the books. It is used as a way to threaten and blackmail homosexuals. It has been used in the past to harass people involved in condom distribution amongst homosexuals. It is also used by the police when registering complaints lodged by the parents of the parties involved. For instance, a lesbian couple that ran away together in Uttar Pradesh, India were arrested and handed back to their parents, in spite of both parties being of legal age by applying this section as the legal basis for their arrest.
There is a vibrant, if largely underground gay nightlife in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, including discos and nightclubs. The police used to harass homosexuals in the past but things have changed dramatically in the last six years. The situation in smaller cities like Hyderabad is more complicated, while there are no gay discos or parties, there are however cruising areas in all major cities.

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