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Legitimacy at long last

 MPost |  2015-06-29 22:30:34.0  |  New Delhi

It’s official: gay marriage is now a constitutional right everywhere in America, thanks to its apex court’s landmark ruling in the <g data-gr-id="37">Obergefell</g> v. Hodges case on Friday. In the <g data-gr-id="36">end</g> love did win. Perhaps the words of US supreme court best sum up this sentiment: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. 

Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfilment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of <g data-gr-id="31"><g data-gr-id="32">civilization</g>’s</g> oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” The American Constitution granted them that right on Friday. Not surprisingly the global community of citizens rejoiced as equal rights for everyone became not just a catchphrase but a social media trend too. One could see even closet homophobes changing their Facebook display picture to the rainbow variant. As usual there were the critics and naysayers with their pointed critiques. The primary criticism was that it was strange that the citizens of a country where homosexuality is <g data-gr-id="35">criminalised,</g> were celebrating a decision taken in a foreign land. Critics of Indians celebrating the USA supreme court decision predictably ended up playing party pooping bigots who could not look beyond their own narrow definition of nationalism. 

In an increasingly globalised world if one is concerned with the well-being of only one’s own countrymen, and only wants to associate with nationally relevant symbolism then that is being parochial to say the least. A positive breakthrough of any kind, for the citizens of any country, especially as large and polarised, (and as likely to be <g data-gr-id="44">aped</g>) as the United States of America is a cause for celebration. 

The same people who cheered for the US decision are also the same people who cheer on superheroes and good causes based in total fantasy, and whole other fictional universes, they are also the same people who can acknowledge man going to the moon as being a beacon of human achievement, and whose favourite football club is from a country they’ve never been to. Ultimately we as a country have to decide whether we want to emerge as a liberal, pluralistic nation or a close minded bunch of people. For this to happen section-377 has to go. Section 377, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter ‘IPC’) was enacted by the British colonial regime to criminalise ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. 

It was rooted in the Judeo-Christian religious morality that abhorred non-procreative sex. Lacking precise definition, Section 377 became subject to varied judicial interpretation over the years. Though ostensibly applicable to heterosexuals and homosexuals, Section 377 acted as a complete prohibition on the penetrative sexual acts engaged in by homosexual men, thereby criminalising their sexual expression and identity. Besides, the society too identified the proscribed acts with the homosexual men, and the criminalisation had a severe impact on their dignity and self-worth. Section 377 was used as a tool by the police to harass, extort and blackmail homosexual men and prevented them from seeking legal protection from violence; for fear that they would themselves be penalised for sodomy. The stigma and prejudice created and perpetuated a culture of silence around homosexuality and resulted in denial and rejection at home along with discrimination in workplaces and public spaces. It’s time India stepped into the 21st century.

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