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RainbowMan: Of Blackmail, Section 377 and Being Sexual Beings

Apart from discrimination, Section 377 has also subjected gay men and women to blackmail and public shaming.

Updated
LGBT
6 min read
LGBT people are not sexual beings, they’re human beings who enjoy sex as much as everyone else (Photo: iStock)

It was 2 in the morning and just as I was about to turn in for the night after a particularly long day, my phone rang. I had received many crisis calls at such hours and therefore could not ignore this one. As soon as I answered the phone I was greeted by frantic sobs of a terrified young man. I listened for a while in silence, hiding my sleep deprived impatience, waiting for the stranger to speak.

“Who is this” I asked.

“Abhimanyu”, he whispered sounding like he was trying to figure out how to cry, breathe and talk at the same time. “He said he will out me…I will be jailed” said the hysterical voice.

“Are you alright now? Where are you now?” I asked.

Section 377 has empowered the average blackmailer (Photo: iStock: This image has been used for representational purposes only)
Section 377 has empowered the average blackmailer (Photo: iStock: This image has been used for representational purposes only)

He said he was scared and bleeding. I booked myself a taxi and rushed to his place. When I met Abhimanyu he seemed shattered. His nose was bleeding and his house was in a mess. I held his hand and assured him of my support. He mustered the courage to tell me what transpired.

“I was alone at home and decided to call home a guy called Rahul I met on a gay dating site…The date undressed himself and it was unusual because there was no foreplay or any discussion. It was exactly then that there was a bell at the door…” he said. My breath quickened as I had heard many stories like this before, but I did not interrupt him. “When I opened the door, to my surprise, there were two strangers, who pushed me away and stormed in…and started beating Rahul, who was stark naked. I was too shocked to react. They kept saying that they will call the police and get us arrested, as we were doing illegal stuff” said Abhimanyu with terror filling his tearful eyes as he relived the traumatic moments that followed. I decided to complete the story for him.

Gay men in India have become easy targets for blackmailers, thanks to section 377 (Photo: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/MsPaka_mat/status/420414038460616706">@<b>MsPaka_mat</b></a>)
Gay men in India have become easy targets for blackmailers, thanks to section 377 (Photo: Twitter/@MsPaka_mat)

“So Rahul’s friends or enemies, whatever we call them, demanded money from Rahul?” I ventured.

“Yes”, replied Abhimanyu.

“They said they will kill Rahul and you, since you brought shame to the society, right? They also said they will call the police and get you both arrested, right?”, I asked.

Abhimanyu replied “Yes”

I probed further “And finally, tell me Abhimanyu, you parted with your money right?... they took you to the ATM ?”

As realization dawned on him he fought hard with denial that was taking over to ask “How do you know? Were there more cases like these?”

I replied in the affirmative. Abhimanyu was shocked, but in a weird way found solace in knowing that he was not the only victim of such crimes. It is all so formulaic that it is as funny as one would imagine it to be creepy. Many succumb to the pressure, while many part with their money, some part with their dignity, some part with their modesty, and some part with their lives too.

What Section 377 has really done is push people deeper into the closets of shame (Photo: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/apcom/status/544477523070181376">@<b>apcom</b></a>)
What Section 377 has really done is push people deeper into the closets of shame (Photo: Twitter/@apcom)
That’s what section 377 has done. It has empowered the average blackmailer and has pushed people deep into the closets of shame, giving impetus to the widespread anti-gay propaganda. I actually sympathize with families who are vary of their children being gay, I mean, though being gay is not illegal, no parent with a sane mind, would want their children being blackmailed or arrested for making love.

That’s what really happens. Agreed, there are organizations and individuals who have risen up to openly state that we are homosexuals – some as a cause, some as a brazen revolt, there is also a vast majority of people who have been pushed into closets. The lives of these people and the ones who are out now, are constantly under the scanner.

When I say I am gay, people assume that I have sex with men, and therefore am engaging in an illegal act. Though, this is way too presumptuous. I mean, my real sex life is an almost wilted flower, waiting for a hot gardener to bring it back to life. I seriously wish I and my fellow LGBT persons, really had as much sex as people think gay people do.

We are not sexual beings; we are human beings who have sex as a part of our lives. Homosexuality is found in many species of animals…something that this government doesn’t understand. There is no real national progress until all citizens, are a part of the success story.

Quit India Section 377! (Photo: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/redditindia/status/661626428606181376">@<b>redditindia</b></a>)
Quit India Section 377! (Photo: Twitter/@redditindia)

Now coming back to the case of Abhimanyu…Rahul and his gang wouldn’t have been able to conspire if the Supreme Court in 2013 had not overruled over the judgement by Justice A P Shah of the Delhi High court, to effectively re-criminalize even consensual sex between adults in private.

A rewind, the hallmark statement by the Delhi high court is as follows :

If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be the underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that the Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations. The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognising a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as ‘deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracised. Where society can display inclusiveness and understanding, such persons can be assured of a life of dignity and non-discrimination. This was the ‘spirit behind the Resolution’ of which Nehru spoke so passionately. In our view, the Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality, which will foster the dignity of every individual.

Now, one wouldn’t have imagined that such a well worded verdict would have been overruled again. We live in a country where Article 21 of the Indian constitution grants us the right to Privacy, Dignity and Health. And moreover, every citizen is also granted Equal Protection of law and non discrimination under article 14 and article 15 of the Indian Constitution. Section 377, as you can read, is an antithesis to the aforementioned articles.

Pride against prejudice (Photo: iStock)
Pride against prejudice (Photo: iStock)

Moreover Home Minister Rajnath Singh has shown his reservation against the LGBT community of our nation. Recently, when Russia passed a resolution to ban spousal benefits for United Nations members who are legally married, India voted for the resolution, when it had the option to abstain. Recently a special envoy from the US to mitigate discussions with the Indian government on LGBT rights was blocked. This further proves that the government is not in favour of equal rights for all its citizens.

A ray of hope though is Dr Shashi Tharoor, a member of parliament who has recently studied the plight and has introduced a bill against section 377. Also, the member of the ruling party, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has time and again stated that he is against section 377 (though he issued a caveat saying that it was his personal view not the view of the party)

As we complete 2 years from the day of the supreme court verdict on Section 377, here’s wishing that no more Abhimanyus have to go through the chakravyuh.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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