After countless protests, debates, media trials, tears, heartbreaks, and sleepless nights; one fine morning, India rose to a new dawn - on 6th September 2018, when the Supreme Court deemed Section 377 'unconstitutional.' The court's judgment negated a portion of a 19th-century law set forth by the British and recognised as Section 377 which ruled sexual intercourse "against the order of nature" a criminal offence punishable by life in prison. The members of the LGBTQIA+ community were provided with some relief as they could finally walk out freely, without the constant disapproval of the masses, or so they thought.
Even after scraping down Section 377, India has not been able to open its arms to embrace homosexuality in its true form. It is still considered an abomination of nature, and homosexuals are taken as malady patients who have deviated from their original and natural pathway of life. Homosexuality is a controversial and sensitive issue in India. People tend to avoid discussing it. This is just a portrayal of how backward our society is. The problem begins the moment pink is labelled a girl's colour and blue for the boys. People tend to generalise every choice that should be left to the discretion of an individual. Similarly, heterosexuality was set up as the norm for everyone. All those who rebel against this orthodox mentality are compelled to face trials not conducted by the legal authorities but by the even colder and more savage institution, society. Homosexuals face such trials day in and day out. They are met with disgraceful comments, raised eyebrows, and judgmental mindsets. They are treated as people who require some spiritual lessons and psychoanalytic therapies. People completely ignore the fact that sexuality is an individual's choice, and there is nothing unnatural about it. The question that now looms large upon the nation's head is, "Is India ready for same-sex marriages?"; the answer is a blunt NO.
The biggest reason India is yet unprepared for the acceptance of same-sex marriages is the dogmatic attitude of the citizens and their stubbornness to accept any kind of social change. Parents refuse to acknowledge the mental agony of their progeny. Many queer folks are deterred from coming out of the closet due to this fear of unacceptance and abandonment. More than a million cases of queer people being shunned by their own families have popped up in the recent past. This bottling up of emotions proves fatal many times, which is very evident in the high suicide rate of queer people. When the coming out is rarely welcomed, how will the 'holy matrimony' be accepted?
The problems of queers are amplified by the showbiz industry, which acts as a significant influencer and agent of change in our country. Bollywood affects society's opinion at large. The numerous plot-less typical movies that this industry spits out every year are a testament to the mass hatred against the queer community. Every slapstick comedy features a man who is cross-dressed and eyes the male protagonist. The depiction of the LGBTQIA+ community in a shameful manner has been a cliche in Bollywood movies. Bring in a man dressed in a saree, cracking offensive jokes and running behind the protagonist—there you have a blockbuster. Every gay person in Bollywood movies is shown wearing a floral shirt, tight pants, and a bright scarf, who talks with a strange accent and walks with a weird posture, constantly swaying their hips. The history of homosexuality in Indian cinema is full of mockery and subjugation, and this comes from the underlying homophobia amongst the Indian audience. Kanta Bai's immense disgust with the thought of homosexuality in 'Kal Ho Na Ho' speaks volumes about the opinion of the masses. Even in a feel-good movie, Bollywood found a way to shed light on the prevalent homophobia. 'Dostana' is considered one of the first movies to present homosexuality relatively positively. However, the movie has Boman Irani playing a gay man who meets all the derogatory stereotypes designed to portray homosexuals. Another stereotypical portrayal of gay men can be found in movies that feature the female lead with a gay 'bestie,' who is inherently interested in fashion and love triangles. Such characters are expected to add an oomph factor to the painstaking attempts at comedy; rather than depict the hardships and stark reality of homosexuality in India. It is 2022, and we still see the likes of Suresh Menon playing a typical gay man, wrapped around in a saree as bright as the sun itself, hitting on every male character and being laughed at by the entire cast. When these movies are being declared 'box office winners', how can we expect the queer community to be treated with dignity and accepted as one of their own?
The colourful logos of corporate giants and the fancy seminars hosted by famous queer individuals may tell a happy story, but the stark reality is still painted in dark colours. Far away from gay pride parades and perfervid discussions and hashtag trends on social networking sites, families in rural India are notorious for their ways of dealing with queer individuals. In some areas of the country, esoteric honour killings are arranged so that the sole predicament for a shunned, immature gay person to persevere is to run away in the cover of the night to some random new place with no financial or social support. In other localities, gay women are put through family-approbated corrective rapes, often effectuated by their family members. It is deeply saddening and traumatising that gay women and transgender people finish at the bottom of the civilian hierarchy regarding fundamental human rights in rural areas. Even in urban areas, 'corrective therapies' are widespread. Family members force individuals who come out of the closet to undergo such disgraceful, medically incorrect, and horrifying therapies in an attempt to 'correct' their sexual choices. These dismaying experiences shatter the bodies and souls of people who just want to be accepted and adored by their families for who they are. Do we really expect India to suddenly become a utopian nation and wipe out all the red in its ledger?
Homosexuality in India is definitely not rainbows and unicorns. It is baffling that in a country of 330 million Gods, the queer community has none to count on. Homosexuality is still a subject of ridicule and lampoon. The hardships of this community are as plain as a pikestaff, yet society refuses to recognise them. It is high time that society comprehended that homosexuality is neither 'just a phase' nor an 'illness.' It is a choice that should be met with the same respect as that of a straight person. If we dream of establishing a social framework where every individual has the same rights, is met with the same respect and is provided with the same opportunities, it is high time that we work first toward sensitising the masses about the issues faced by the queer community. It is high time that the voices of the oppressed are heard, and justice is sought. Let India not be a nation of orthodox opinions but a nation that is an agent of change across the globe. India has been a pioneer in progress, and I hope the legacy is continued in social development as well. The day India is ready for same-sex marriages would be the day of a new revolution that will bring about a social change for the whole world, to work for the vision - 'Take pride in Pride'.