A year on from legal same-sex relationships & 2020
It’s over a year ago that same sex relationships became legal in India, though families and society are still conservative about the idea. The doors may have been unlocked, though they still need to open…
Section 377 had been put in to place by the British in 1861 and it hung over like a dark cloud, installing fear in to many who felt coming out would ruin their lives by giving them a criminal record and intense social shaming.
Millions of Indians who had before been deemed as criminals for purely exercising their sexual preferences became law-abiding citizens overnight.
Many around the world welcomed India to “the modern world”. The truth is, we were purely claiming back our ancient culture and beliefs, when India was very liberal about gender fluidity. You only need to read The Kāmasūtra, the ancient Indian Sanskrit text on sexuality, eroticism & emotional fulfilment in life and the oldest surviving Hindu text on love, which recognises homosexual marriage as “a union of love and cohabitation, without the need for parental approval”.
Opposing homosexuality was not the norm in Indian society until it became indoctrinated by other religions and foreign rule. Prior, Hindu myths were deep in story telling of the sexual needs of gods and goddesses, serenely accepting lust and love as second nature.
The sculptures and carvings on the walls of the 12th-century Khajuraho temple in central India explicitly depict couplings in every conceivable sexual position, whether heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual. Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, famous for these erotic sculptures and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the "seven wonders" of India.
Despite India becoming independent from the British in 1947, society has remained conservative portraying homosexuality as “inappropriate” and abolishing Section 377 from the law was never a political priority. Not wanting to “rock the boat”, legalising gay marriage is not high on the government’s agenda today.
One of our biggest challenges is that while society is slow in accepting the legalising of same-sex relationships, families and workplaces are not creating environments where individuals feel comfortable in coming out. Visitors coming to India are often surprised that the gay scene has not flourished. It will take time. It certainly is growing, though there is still a trend for “pop-up” and transient events. The Keshav Suri Foundation is one entity that works closely with corporate India to sensitize workspaces to accept diversity as a way of life and to work towards gender neutral policies & benefits: right back to where India was before Section 377.
We have been fortunate to have formidable & inspiring high-profile role-models fighting for equal rights in India, including lawyers Menaka Guruswamy & Arundhati Katju, who were at the forefront of the September 2018 victory, Dutee Chand, the national champion sprinter, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil (the world’s first openly gay royal), Dr Samarpan Maiti, scientist, model & Mr Gay India 2018 and hotelier, Keshav Suri, of Kitty Su fame.
Over the past year, Out in India has been continually working behind the scenes with its proven partners to drive LGBT+ initiatives and has also forged new relationships with credible businesses across the country, several of them LGBT+ owned. What this means is that we have been able to confidently extend our product and service range for the coming year while supporting the local community, ultimately being able to create more employment opportunities in the tourism & hospitality sectors. Our guests will be receiving ethical & authentic local experiences and accommodation for Luxury, Boutique and Adventure travellers.
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For those wishing to support a LGBT+ focused charitable trust direct, Out in India recommends the Lakshya Trust, which primarily works to address various issues and advocating the social, economic, legal, psychological, spiritual and health aspects of sexual minorities’ lives in India.
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