By meghna at 24 February, 2010, 6:22 pm
The recent judgment of Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT and Ors had created havoc all over the nation. The Delhi High Court stated that “Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is unconstitutional as it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, violative of Articles 19, 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 I.P.C will continue to govern non-consensual penile, non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors.” The ruling was prospective in nature and was not binding on cases already decided. The court further clarified that the term ‘adults’ would constitute persons above 18 years of age. However this decision is binding only in the territory of Delhi and has persuasive value elsewhere. Therefore a proper legislation is required in this regard.
Section 377 is based on the Judo-Christian principles of morality. The British believed that such acts were
unnatural and unproductive. They were against the order of the nature and against the will of the god. Homosexuality was not an alien concept to the country. There have been evidences of the same in the Rig-Veda, Manusmriti, Tantric rituals and Kama Sutra. For past 150 years Angaar (which is a small village in Gujarat), marriages between two males take place on the auspicious occasion of Holi.
Different religions have different perspective in this regard. Most of the religions condemn homosexuality on grounds of procreation. But procreation should not be a basis of discrimination as infertility exists in heterosexual couples also. Buddhism does not lay more stress on procreation as such. The Buddhist literature is silent on Homosexuality but it is presumed that the lay monks are allowed to practice homosexuality. Traditionally in Christianity homosexuality was condemned on basis of being unnatural. But now a days many Christians believe that it is akin to other unnatural acts like alcoholism. In Hinduism ancient texts like Manusmriti and Bhagwat Gita condemn such acts. In Islam it is considered sinful and publishable.
Countries like U.K., USA (some states like Georgia, Texas etc), Canada, Australia, Fiji and Nepal have decriminalized homosexuality and have recognized the Right to Privacy argument. Countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen prescribe death penalty for the homosexual conduct. In nations like Cambodia, China, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong there is no criminal prohibition on Homosexuality.
Section 377 penalizes private non-commercial sex between two consenting adults of the same sex in the same manner as it penalizes bestiality, forced sodomy and paedophiles. The conduct in this provision relates to man with man, man with woman, and man with animal. The present law is often misused police officials. In Jayalakshmi v. The State of Tamil Nadu, a eunuch had committed suicide due to the harassment and torture at the hands of the police officers. He was continuously subjected to forced anal and oral sex. Similar incidents happened in Bangaluru where a transsexual was raped by a group of hooligans.
The section interferes in the private life of individuals. Medical evidence has proven that Homosexuality is not a disease and cannot be treated. It is not by choice but by birth. Morality and public opinion cannot be the basis of any law. The rights of the transgenders, transsexuals and homosexuals need to be protected. They have as much right to choose their sexual partners as the heterosexuals. Consensual Sodomy between adults must not be subject to any punishment. Even A.I.D.S can be prevented if sexual deviance is checked.
Due the pressure from the society most of the homosexuals are forced to live the lives of heterosexuals. This affects the lives of both the homosexual and his heterosexual partners.
In Moina Khosla vs Amardeep Singh Khosla A decree of nullity of marriage is granted to the wife under section12(1)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act as the husband was a homosexual who could not consummate the marriage in spite of the repeated efforts of the wife.
The present law has also proved a hindrance in the path of social workers. When a group of A.I.D.S activists went to the Tihar jail to distribute condoms amongst the prisoners, they were not allowed to do so (as it was contrary to Section 377). The punishment prescribed under Section 377 for consensual sodomy is ten years or life imprisonment. It is more than the minimum punishment stated for rape i.e. seven years.
A new legislation is required. Even if section 377 is not struck down completely, it must be definitely amended. Section 377 is the only Section in I.P.C. which deals with Child Assault. There must be separate and specific laws for paedophiles and zoophiles in the country. If people are not made aware of the new law then the same would be manipulated easily. Most of our population lives in rural areas and thus implementation of the same must be done effectively and efficiently. It is contended that a proviso (exception) may be added to Section 377 stating that “a non-commercial homosexual act in private provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of eighteen years would not be prosecuted under the act.”