On 6 September 2018, a 5-judge constitutional bench of Supreme Court of India invalidated part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code making homosexuality legal in India. Earlier gay sex was punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though the law was not implemented in practice.
What is surprising is that the Supreme Court in India seems to be far ahead of the time in Indian social context.
In the Western world, these issues have been discussed for the past few decades now. As these societies enjoyed the Western concept of freedom, homosexuals exhibited their sexual orientation openly and formed activist groups to promote their cause for many years.
It is understandable that these societies have reached a point where marital rights to homosexual couples are being discussed extensively and social support gathered through extensive campaigns to legislate such unions.
The Western societies have at large given up the traditional religious following and have formulated their own standards of human living which they claim are based on humanistic principles and scientific research.
For them, it is the genetic make up of this section of the human population, which cannot be treated through clinical or psychological intervention.
In Australia, the referendum on marriage equality was held in Nov 2017 and while 61.6 % voted Yes to Same-Sex marriage, 38.4 % voted No. Thus here too, it was not a clean sweep as nearly 40% of the population opposed it openly and even protested against the concept. Catholic Church vehemently opposed the idea and Muslim Imams were equally forceful in their opposition despite them being very small in number.
However, India is still a very religious and highly dogmatic society. Public discussion of homosexuality in India has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly.
India is a multi-religious nation where religion plays an important role in day to day affairs at all levels of society. With very poor health standards and lack of health awareness among masses, devastating health implications of the practice on individuals and the risk of them transmitting the diseases to wider community are far higher.
The Supreme Court, however, failed to consult all players on this issue. Human right advocates are the winners but medical fraternity is disappointed. Not consulting religious leaders is a serious omission too. Then there is the Indian community, the most important segment in a democratic country, whose opinion has been totally discarded.
However, it is interesting to note that though majority of Hindus are antagonistic to homosexuality, many justify it based on old Hindu scriptures and depictions. Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism says Vikriti Evam Prakriti meaning what seems unnatural is also natural, which some scholars believe recognises homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities.
The ancient Indian text Kamasutra dedicates a complete chapter on erotic homosexual behaviour. Many Historians believe that homosexuality has been prevalent across the Indian subcontinent throughout history, and that homosexuals were not necessarily considered inferior until about 18th century.
The supreme court judgement has ignited debates on various forums and Indian Muslims in particular are expressing frustration in changing attitudes in India that are contrary to Islamic views on such and other issues related to public morality.