Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine “
The Supreme Court clearly mentions Section 377 does not target any particular group or community but includes everybody regardless of sexual orientation. ANYBODY (that is, including heterosexual people) who practices ANY SEXUAL ACTIVITY other than peno-vaginal intercourse not leading to procreation is deemed as ‘unnatural’ and is liable to be prosecuted under the law. Thus sexual acts, even between a man and a woman – such as sexual foreplay, oral sex or mutual masturbation, anal sex are equally punishable offences.None of these so called “unnatural” acts is a “copyright” of homosexual people! But the interpretations went wrong. The direct projection was Gay sex banned which assumes that particular kind of sexual activities performed between two men is banned and Homosexuality is illegal in India i.e. anybody who identifies himself as a homosexual is thought to be a criminal!
Let us talk Science first ..not something you come around in Sunday mags . The theory of natural selection, originally proposed by Charles Darwin is still now the most acclaimed theory for existence and evolution of all life-forms on Earth and explains the gradual process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a . Homosexual behaviour are biological traits found in over 1500 species (and still counting) from gut worm to primates. Hence if ever this trait became weaker or less common in a population it would have lost out during evolution through Natural selection and couldn’t have evolved cross-culturally in Humans as prominently as Heterosexual traits.In a recent research by Zietsch et al(Evolution & Human Behavior, Volume 29, Issue 6 , Pages 424-433, November 2008) who tried to analyse the Homosexual traits which tend to lower reproductive success but is still maintained in the population at a relatively high frequency. They found that homosexual traits (or genes predisposing to homosexuality) may confer a mating advantage in heterosexuals and possibly explain the evolution and maintenance of homosexuality in the population. Thus if more sexual partners in heterosexuals is correlated with more offspring, then the genes associated with homosexuality may lead to more offspring in heterosexuals that carry them. In a nutshell homosexuality is backed up by Natural selection and even compliments heterosexuality and vice versa! It’s pity that Supreme Court didn’t consider the theory of Natural Selection while reaffirming the “order of nature” in section 377 and quite loosely and unscientifically tagged it with only procreation whereas the true order of nature could be so different and natural! HUMANITY IS NOT (read NEVER) THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION FOR HOMOSEXUALITY.
Now if we telescope down to the most controversial act “Anal sex” implicated by Supreme court in section 377 there are more surprises waiting for the Heterosexuals! It is now well established that the erogenous zones are located all over a human body and wouldn’t necessary comply with the so called sex organ or genitals. The recent work of Justine Schober (BJU International, Volume 103, Issue 8, pages 1096–1103, April 2009)which assess the perceptions of healthy individuals of their genital anatomy and sexual sensitivity clearly describes anus, which contains a vast supply of nerves, as one of the most erogenous zone. Hence quite naturally people irrespective of their sexual orientation gets aroused by anal based stimulus and enjoys every bit of sexual activity! Sexual activity of an individual exists along a continuum that ranges from exclusive heterosexuality, various forms of bisexuality to exclusive homosexuality and vice versa and thus IPC 377 criminalizes not only certain forms of homosexuality but also various forms of heterosexuality. In recent times another argument which is often in the public arena is If you are a homosexual you have more channce of HPV !! HPV is a single virus (Human Papilloma virus) and can affect anyone as it can cause cancers of cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx and not only anus. Its true that Anal cancer is on rise in Homosexuals (not that it’s universal and till date no Indian/universal data regarding this “universality” ) but on the same note Breast cancer is rising among Young Females, do you propose complete removal of breasts for Young Females ?! And by the same analogy HPV also causes Cervical cancers which is highest among Indian Females. Estimates suggest that more than 80% of the sexually active women acquire genital HPV by 50 years of age(Singh, Ind J of Pediatric oncology 2005). So can we propose asexual lifestyle ? By the way HPV vaccinations have started and available in India
Luckily Science is based on experimental research and findings rather than Hypothesis or assumptions!
Lastly I would like to talk about few confusions among the community people relating Genetics with homosexuality. They are in a constant fear that if genetics can explain homosexuality, a time will come that a “gene” will be identified behind individual homosexuality and then that gene might be screened by parents before childbirth or might have different genetic therapies targeting homosexual population. I think the term “genetics” is being used very generically. Even if we choose not to talk about Genetics the rest of the world won’t. Even we choose not to bother what is happening in the genetics/epi genetics , there will be endless number of attempts by humans to dissect genes in every possible way and on the other side genetics will have its own effect on evolution (whether for a single life form or sexuality). May be what we can do is get our understanding better.
I think we should contest homophobia with Science, Humanities and Law because the rest of the world will use these in various forms to promote homophobia. Just as now thay have come up supporting IPC 377 with pseudo-scientific theories discussed above. We need to understand that not a single gene will ever be truly identified as responsible for homosexuality (even after several claims of Xq28 which actually might even be linked to heterosexuality) which is as normative as heterosexuality. For example ATCN-3 gene was identified as a gene responsible for athletic performance but till now there are in no way to alter it and its not possible to do so as it will lead to dysfunction of our skeletal muscle. Moreover there are athletes who have a deficiency of this gene. Screening of fetus is done by people (read companies) who neither understand genetics nor the science behind it. they wont stop screening embryos but we need to look at the results. even single genes which are responsible for genetic disorders could not be removed yet leave alone homosexuality. The technology of screening traits is an impossibly complex thing and even if possible it will might delete functional attributes of human body in the process. This is as complex as even if we clone a theoretically heterosexual organism, the sexual preferences might differ in the clone. There is now some evidence that genes linked to male homosexuality could increase fertility in women. The study by Zietsch et al found that female relatives of gay men tended to have more children than those of straight men i.e. somehow homosexuality and heterosexuality are so much inter-depended that they might be complementing each other and any moves to destroy a homosexual gene pool (though again a gene pool can’t be identified or isolated like that) might result in severe disorders or even death. On a lighter note while looking for genes of alternative sexuality they might land up on a trait responsible for homophobia/xenophobia, persistent only in humans and was absent in those 1500 species and wont have the support of natural selection. Then we might even think of deleting or altering the “homophobic genes” and alter draconian laws against homosexuality throughout the world !
“Homosexuality” once a “darwinian paradox” , supposedly with no reproduction efficiency would have disappeared by now by natural selection which is much stronger than any artificial embryonic screening and wouldn’t have been persistent in over 1500 species. IPC 377 according to evolutionary science and genetics violates sexuality and not just Homosexuality and the law itself is against the order of nature posing a constant threat to Human population!
Having used all these scientific jargons, I believe that it is also pertinent to wonder about exactly how much we might need “Nature” to prove everything that we Humans do!! Do we consult nature or evolutionary studies when we drink or smoke or even build an airport?
Section 377 is a direct violation of Human Rights, It violates the Right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Irrespective of any sexuality, religion, caste or creed this law is draconian in nature and can be used by the State under any circumstance to curb down personal freedom even within the four walls of our house. This law is as much heterosexual in nature with respect to science, law and humanities as any other draconian laws and the growing perception of Section 377 as only an anti-homosexual legislation with backing from populist media will only make this movement shallow and ineffective and in the long run will inhibit every possibility of an all-inclusive Indian society.
Dr Shuvojit Moulik, Civilian Welfare Foundation
[The article was first published at Swakanthey (Kolkata Bookfair 2014 edition) a bi-lingual magazine by Sappho for Equality]