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What Legalizing Same-Sex Intimacy Means to This Gay Indian

indiagaypride3

As India moves toward decriminalizing same-sex sex, with a Delhi court ruling this week striking down a 150-year-old British anti-sodomy law in the city, Queerty asked Pradeep Solanki to describe what the news means to him. He files from his home in Canada.

About ten years ago I was walking excitedly around downtown Mumbai, soaking in the sights and sounds of the land my family left more than 100 years ago. I passed by Churchgate Railway Station and the unmistakable aura of gay men cruising was palpable. I was approached very seductively by a square-jawed youth who wasted no time in getting to the point. He whispered all the things he would do to me if only I would follow him to his flat around the corner. My temperature raised, I followed him closely and he held my hand. In India it is a common sight to see two men (or two women) holding hands or walking arm on shoulder as a mark of deep friendship. We turned a corner and his demeanor turned violent. He snatched my wallet, insulted me in Hindi and finally threatened to call the police.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is the same anti-sodomy law under which Oscar Wilde was prosecuted. While post-colonial India has been quick to throw off any reminders of the British, such as changing the name of Bombay back to Mumbai, it has been slow to overturn this one law. Gay men routinely face harassment from hoodlums and police alike using this law. Untold number of HIV positive men fear getting medical treatment because disclosure could result in imprisonment.

indiagaypride4

But India is on the fast track toward progress, both economic and social. Former Miss Universe and Bollywood actress, Celina Jaitely publicly credits gay designers and make-up artists for her success. Middle-class youth in the urban centers have been quick to embrace new sexual mores. For them being gay is not as much a stigma as it was for an earlier generation. The majority of gay men I met while in India were married but had sordid liaisons in public restrooms and alleyways. In a country where privacy is rare, the most private places for a discreet encounter is often the rush-hour commuter trains in Mumbai. The compartments are segregated by gender because the passengers are so tightly touching that it would be obscene for a woman to be in a male compartment. I have enjoyed many dry-humps and feel-ups on these trains.

Though I live in Canada where same-sex marriage is legal, my partner and I have long wanted to maintain a winter home in India. I have hesitated buying property with him in India because of this law. This morning, when I saw the news on Times of India, I could not help but weep for joy. Change is coming for the better. Not just for gays but for everyone. The land that gave the world the Kama Sutra (an ancient sex-manual that has a whole chapter on male-male sex) has been subjected to first Muslim, then British rule. Each colonizer has imposed mores, dress codes and sexual guilt, all of which are alien to India. Finally we are reclaiming our cultural birthright. This is a proud day.

(Photos: AP, Reuters)

 

pradeep-solanki

Pradeep Solanki was born in Africa to Indian parents, raised in U.K. and spent his adult life in Canada. He is a writer of fiction and editor at Descant Magazine, a literary journal where I also write a regular blog on the writing life (Descant.ca).

By:           Pradeep Solanki
On:           Jul 2, 2009
Tagged: , , ,

  • 18 Comments
    • Markie-Mark
      Markie-Mark

      This is indeed a proud day for India. And a proud day for the world. I hope the day will come soon when every human is a valued member of society.

      Jul 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • greg
      greg

      This is great news!

      Jul 2, 2009 at 2:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      I wept for joy just reading this.

      Jul 2, 2009 at 7:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GayIndian
      GayIndian

      Yep, India, “that third world country,” has decriminalized being gay, but the United State, “the democratic superpower,” still kicks people out of the military for the same reason.

      Being a gay Indian in the US, this is great news to read, but equally sad because it took too long, too much harassment, and too much shame on such a beautiful country as that of India.

      Jul 2, 2009 at 8:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BrianZ
      BrianZ

      It’s so very heartening read news such as this, as various legal systems around the world affirm that gays and lesbians deserve better than the past of hate and discrimination. I can’t imagine the emotions, the sense of relief, of the residents of Delhi at this moment. I hope this ruling has a snowball effect across India toppling similar laws.

      Jul 3, 2009 at 8:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LoveMoby
      LoveMoby

      @GayIndian:

      Ok lets be clear about this, India just decrmininalzed it in New Delhi, not the entire country. And while there are plenty of problems when it comes to the US and it’s anti equality laws, comparing one city in India whre you can kind of be gay without being arrested to the US is no coparrison. Where would you rather live?

      Jul 3, 2009 at 11:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • strumpetwindsock
      strumpetwindsock

      @LoveMoby:

      It doesn’t just mean that.
      The provincial court struck down a federal law. It sets a nation-wide precedent.

      More importantly, the new government is actively working to change this section of the criminal code and has said they will do so once parliament opens in the fall.

      Jul 3, 2009 at 12:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LoveMoby
      LoveMoby

      @strumpetwindsock:

      I certainly hope youre right. And of course I hope equality under the law for the GLBT community does come to India…sooner rather than later. I worry though about the noise the religious fanatics are already making.

      Jul 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tallskin
      Tallskin

      GayIndian – LOL, I love it when Indians are chauvenistic!

      Speaking as a Brit, a European, I would rather live in the US than the horrible place that is India.

      You say one can be thrown out of the military for being gay in the US, but what the fuck would happen to you if you are gay in the Indian military?

      (And yes we know that the Indian army is the best in the world!!)

      Jul 3, 2009 at 4:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • strumpetwindsock
      strumpetwindsock

      @Tallskin:

      Look my dear, don’t be a fucking prat. Speaking as another colonial, you have no reason to get on your fucking high horse.

      Your country ran India until 50 years ago. Britain has done a fair bit of good for its former colonies, but let’s not forget that section 377 – the one that is being tucked into the grave – is a British law.

      And I assume you were being facetious about the Gurkhas, because otherwise you don’t know shit about military history.

      Jul 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • LoveMoby
      LoveMoby

      @strumpetwindsock:

      Tallskin is a douche. Ive met several like him. I do have to say though I think India would have benefitted had the Brit’s stayed on a tad longer. Not as a country in charge but rather as a guiding hand. Too many massive problems have come since they left. The population is absolutely out of control which of course is linked to the abject poverty. And thats just one of the problems! I dont think India was ready to be completely independent but thats just my very humble opinion and it’s certainly easy to say since I wasnt living under British rule. Thanks anyway for putting the douche in his place.

      Jul 4, 2009 at 12:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tallskin
      Tallskin

      strumpetwindsock & LoveMoby

      I love it when the-not-very-bright reveal their low intelligence by showing they cannot even logically construct an argument but have to resort to abuse!

      Fantastic!

      It is hardly worth engaging with your stupidity, but for the sake of protocol let me try.

      Question: Would anyone gay on these boards rather live in India rather than the USA? (personally, choosing between Europe, India or the USA, I prefer Europe, but hey)

      Second question: how does the Indian army treat its gay service-people? GAYINDIAN equates US policy towards its service personel with the total illegality of gay sex in India and says the US is just as bad.

      Surely even you dunderheads can see that this is madness?

      Yeah?

      Jul 4, 2009 at 6:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • strumpetwindsock
      strumpetwindsock

      @Tallskin:

      Sorry if I didn’t make my point clearly enough. I’ll try again.

      I’d rather live where I am right now – Canada – where we have a few more of our rights recognized than they do in India, the U.S. or your increasingly-restrictive nanny state of Britain (nice place it is, but if I had to live in Europe Germany is a lot nicer, and the food is far better).

      I don’t usually feel the need to point that out to people though, because it’s arrogant, impolite, and always false. None of us live in “the best country in the world” and certainly none of our nations are free from homophobia.

      I sometimes make an exception though, when someone starts braying about how great his country is, or gets condescending about someone else’s home.

      If you paid attention to GayIndian’s second paragraph (in #4) it’s not the expression of blind chauvanism you make it out to be. He says quite clearly that leaving the law on the books this long has shamed his country.

      But he quite rightly points out that we all have work to do – even in the developed world – and none of us has any call to put anyone else down, especially over a positive turn of events like this.

      You especially should be a little sensitive about the situation, coming from the country which is largely responsible for how things are in India. It is, after all, one of your laws which is being stricken. I don’t feel that I am any better because they were removed here in 1969 and it has taken until now to do it in India.

      I am just happy for them.

      Jul 4, 2009 at 10:35 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • strumpetwindsock
      strumpetwindsock

      @strumpetwindsock:

      But then I also remember you claiming that Britain fought alone against the Nazis until 1941.
      Four of my great uncles and my grandfather, were they alive today would have corrected you on that oversight. Perhaps you should reacquaint yourself with events in the Pacific Theatre as well.

      Jul 4, 2009 at 11:00 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • galefan2004
      galefan2004

      @LoveMoby: Religious fanatics make noise. That is the only purpose they have. However, they make the loudest noise when they know they are losing. They are like a dieing animal. They will scratch, claw and bite when they are dieing, but eventually the just stop moving. It will be a glorious day when the fundies finally die.

      Jul 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jay Pat
      Jay Pat

      omg people shut the fuck up and be happy for once. good god

      …we all know that happy news like this is rare these days

      Jul 4, 2009 at 4:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Atul_indian
      Atul_indian

      Guys its been decided that the law is applicable to the whole country…
      I stay in Bombay and the people out here are so happy that you get to see parades and gay parties in almost every locality!
      Its all over the newspapers and news channels and even a college friend of mine came out of the closet with her gf the day it was announced..
      Atlast India detached itself from the colonial British law..CHEERS!

      Jul 5, 2009 at 1:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GS
      GS

      To the Brit who said that India would have benefited had the British stayed on a little longer. A similar sentiment was expressed in “The white mans burden” by Rudyard Kipling. You were not torch bearers in India, you were pests. You were a three century long lice infestation.

      My dear Limey friend, it wasn’t the imposition of gay rights, English education and railroads that made us kick you out – It had more to do with the 300 years of rape, murder and exploitation, the subjugation of a people in their own land, and the perpetual absurdity of having a subcontinent ruled by a decaying power on a small island.

      That was 60 years ago.

      Jul 7, 2009 at 2:44 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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