It is not often that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh finds common cause with the ulemas and the Church. Yet, the Supreme Court's path-breaking decision to strike down parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalizing consensual, adult sex among homosexual persons, has made strange bedfellows of the aforementioned entities.
- Published 10.09.18
It is not often that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh finds common cause with the ulemas and the Church. Yet, the Supreme Court's path-breaking decision to strike down parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalizing consensual, adult sex among homosexual persons, has made strange bedfellows of the aforementioned entities. The anxiety among religious fraternities over the verdict is palpable. The RSS has concurred with the apex court that homosexuality is not criminal but says that the "issue needs to be taken care of at the social and psychological level". The psychological underpinnings of homosexuality have been implicit in the indignant response of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India's Office of Justice, Peace and Development, which said that there is a need to "reach out to homosexuals in care and concern including the psychological... aspects". Kerala's Muslim organizations have castigated the decriminalization of the LGBTQI community because of the threat of 'moral degeneration'.
Certain broad inferences can be drawn from such reservations. The most apparent is that sexual minorities continue to be looked upon as aberrant. The repeated, if covert, suggestion of psychological rehabilitation of homosexual citizens in a democracy underlines a propensity to view the constituency as a misfit, a threatening one at that. The patronizing mindset, couched as care or, worse, tacit surveillance, lies at the root of the marginalization of minorities. This exclusion, in turn, is an anomaly among the principles of freedom of choice, individual dignity and personal liberty that have been upheld by the apex court. The bogey of moral degeneration referred to by the clerics is equally telling. The march of civilization is predicated upon the progress of ideas. The flexibility in thought has, even though belatedly, informed legal thinking. In the light of the criticism of the Supreme Court's wisdom, it must be asked whether the leading lights of religious orders have, unlike legal luminaries, been able to keep pace with broader changes in society. The advocacy of sex for procreation as opposed to pleasure further exposes the orthodoxy of the scholarship that originates in holy precincts. The upholders of faith must demonstrate their willingness to be nimble in thought and inclusive in deed. Otherwise, their flocks might eventually dwindle.