Indian law “catches up with Indian culture”

HAF lauds Supreme Court ruling decriminalizing Victorian-era law that targets sexual activities once deemed “against the order of nature.”


Ritu Jha


The Hindu American Foundation joined the LGBTQ community in the United States to welcome India’s apex court ruling September 6 to decriminalize consensual gay sex, describing the law as “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.”


The law, part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, introduced in 1861 criminalized sexual activities “against the order of nature.”


According to The Hindu, the verdict from a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices Rohinton F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra, came as four separate but concurring judgments


Reacting to the ruling, Trikone chair Mohammed Shaik Hussain Ali told indica that after many years of precedent-setting judgments, there was an indication as to which direction the judgment would lean toward but that no one wanted to assume anything. Overall, there was cautious optimism before the judgment.


“The first reaction post-judgment was a relief and [we were] energized for the next steps,” he said. “To me personally, it means that at least legally, discrimination is invalid. I’ve the law on my side. To the community, it’s a sense of power that they can now be less afraid of persecution/blackmail, at least legally.”


Trikone, a Northern California based non-profit organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people of South Asian descent was founded in 1986.


Ali said, “The immediate next step is to make sure we celebrate our wins. And then recognize that there are many more struggles in front of us, and this is just the beginning.”


The HAF, which backed the group that recently hosted the first town hall LGBTQ event at a temple in Washington DC, said in a statement, “With the decriminalization of consensual sexual relations finally achieved, one remaining challenge for Indians, both in India and the diaspora, is fully making our families, religious centers, and organizations a welcoming space for LGBTQ individuals. That will be one more important step in shedding the Victorian-era mores that continue to influence Indic-sensibilities today.”


HAF, a non-profit advocacy organization for the Hindu American community founded in 2003, added quotes from Swami Venkataraman, a HAF National Leadership Council member and author of HAF’s brief on Hinduism and homosexuality: “There is no fundamental reason in Hindu spiritual teachings to reject or ostracize homosexuals.”


“The core of Hindu spiritual teachings is that an individual’s essential nature is not rooted in his or her sexual orientation, or any external physical traits. What is most important is our ability to simultaneously embrace and see beyond these apparent external differences to celebrate the Divine core of our being, to transcend the body, senses, and ego,” Venkataraman was quoted as saying.


“Until today, when the Indian Supreme Court struck down the colonial-era law which criminalized consensual homosexual intercourse under Indian Penal Code Section 337, sex deemed “against the order of nature” could be punished with life imprisonment,” the leaders of the Hindu American Foundation said, “Now, Indian law has caught up with Indian culture.”


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