[This is Part-II. Here is Part-I.]
By Shreya Ila Anasuya
The absurdity of the ‘natural’
Over a decade of campaigning has brought the discourse about Section 377 squarely into the realm of queer politics.
Many people point out that it is important to remember Section 377 doesn’t just criminalize same-sex acts, but any acts that are ‘against the order of nature’.
Given that this law was passed in 1860 by the colonial government, it is doubly absurd that it is now being upheld in order to preserve ‘Indian culture’. Even a cursory interrogation of this law will place it firmly within the framework of Victorian morality, which then becomes violently translated into upper-caste, elite Hindu nationalism.
Such seemingly stable categories as ‘traditional’ and ‘Indian’ become extremely confusing if one recognizes, through examining History, that India is and has always been tremendously diverse. And if we recognize this diversity in religion, state, language, cuisine and ‘culture’, then we must recognize diversity in sexuality and gender as well.
It is extremely important to challenge the rhetoric of the natural, because this exact argument has been used to perpetrate atrocities against women, lesbian, gay, trans*, and gender variant people in India.
We remember (with great irony) the Tehelka expose on the attitudes of Delhi/NCR police towards women on the issue of rape. Aside from apparently blaming women for rape in almost every instance, rape was made to appear normal and natural by constructing male sexual desire as an unstoppable biological force that is bound to ravage a woman’s body given half the chance.
This same force is the one that only recognizes heteronormative procreative sex as ‘natural’ and therefore acceptable, with every other expression of consensual sexuality being rejected and criminalized. Given their shared root, the legitimization of marital rape looks less ironic, and more inevitable.
Movements and the importance of unification
The aspect of criminality further points to the important conjunctions of the movement against Section 377. We have to remember that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives the army the power to criminalize any Kashmiri. The same army rapes women in the North East with impunity, while our political leaders parrot patriarchal promises for the protection of ‘mothers, daughters, sisters’. An entire village in India has been held ‘criminal’ for protesting against the nuclear plant in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu. A court recently concluded that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was not ‘serious enough’ to be called genocide.
These are not coincidences. They are the symptoms of an extremely dangerous set of false and fascist principles that endanger Indian democracy.
And now, more than ever, we must join forces across movements – gender, sexuality, caste, class, religion and other elements that divide us – into a larger movement that unites to oppose these related and grave injustices.
May we have the wisdom to do so with a keen eye for the injustices we perpetrate within our own movements. May we remember not to trample those less privileged than us in our zeal to lead the movements. May we continuously examine our own actions as we develop great leadership to mobilize against injustices like Section 377.
[This is Part-II. Here is Part-I.]
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