A year ago, on September 6, Section 377 — the archaic law which considered homosexuality an act of crime — was decriminalised. Prior to this, even consensual intercourse between same-sex couples was considered “unnatural” and “illegal” with a penalty of up to 10 years in jail.
With the Supreme Court led by the five-judge constitutional bench consisting of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Rohinton Fali reading down the draconian law, India took a step forward towards accepting gender fluidity and sexual orientation. But is it as simple as it looks? Does amending a law make the acceptance much easier? With a history so orthodox and society so patriarchal, has it become any easy for a homosexual person to come out of the closet?
Manash Phukan, a Master’s student of Cultural Studies in Assam’s Tezpur University, recently unshackled himself from the societal norms and came out as gay. He gets candid in a conversation with VibesMojo:
The change so far…
‘Love is not for gender, it’s for everyone’: This can be heard every time we look at the protests and rallies done for the abolition of Section 377. We did achieve a historic moment for the law was overturned which criminalises homosexual relationships, be it as an intercourse or as a marriage. It has been a year now, there has been lot going on before the law was resolved and ironically even after that also. What matters the most here is that, in the state level it has been legalised, but what about the space called society? Is the society still accepting what they see in front of their eyes? Can they welcome a son as their ‘bahu’ or a girl as a ‘damad’ now? The laws have definitely given a positive outlook which might not be true about a society, for it’s a very complex matter altogether.
We can’t deny the impact of the abolition of section 377 which has allowed many of us to come out and speak out it publicly, including me. Before, I was only open to a closed group of people but now I am out and open about my sexuality to everyone. It was like a push for people like me who was in need of a perfect time to speak out loud about it.
Societal acceptance after one year…
Now that I look over things, sometimes I do realise that we have a lot to achieve, we have just put our feet in one single step of the bridge. The bridge, however, is still long and the end, even farther. Most people are not really into talking about these things, it’s not even a part of their political Addams. Who do we see while talking about supporting the cause? It’s always those people who has a broad mind to inculcate any such ideas, others we don’t see. I do see people putting stories on Facebook and on Instagram but in reality they are the ones who make a mockery out of it. These Facebook stories are not going to help, what we are dealing with is of a large scale. There are still people like us who are afraid to come out even now because of the respect and masculinity that they are inclined to. Most of the time we see younger generation making a mockery out of their friends just because he is gay. In this respect parents are much more comfortable with those matters.
The main problem what I believe is to let go the very idea that I have to live up to certain standards which makes me worry that it is just an emotional suicide. Shockingly, this is what most people are doing now. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by so many amazing people who made me the person I am today. What I believe is you must build a good support system to rely on and a person or a friend who can understand you. Because in a society, Section 377 can only help you to say — yes, we have rights, but to live a life afterwards and to face the crowd is a different matter altogether. The fact that not all of us came out even after the abolition of Section 377 says a lot. We still have a lot of to work upon before we can really say that love has won over boundaries.