Section 377: Being gay does not make you a child molester

Vikram Johri
Vikram JohriFeb 06, 2016 | 16:12

Section 377: Being gay does not make you a child molester

A commentator on a Newslaundry article on Section 377, published on Friday, spoke about the molestation he underwent twice during his teens, once as a thirteen-year-old at the hands of a senior in school, and again when he was 18 by an elderly man of 50.

The commentator said: "I got curious the other day at work and initiated a discussion with my colleagues. I asked them if they had any such experience. Five out of eight said they had been victims and subjected to molestation by homosexuals. A couple of them had that fear of childhood on their face when everyone started sharing." He added: "The problem is, how to teach children to be safe from pedophiles and rogue homosexuals?"

It would be easy to tear down his argument with an application of analogy. That a lot of straight people turn out to be rapists and molesters, so does that mean all straight sex should be penalised as Section 377 does for homosexuals?

However, the comment raises deeper issues about molestation, especially child sexual abuse, that need to be discussed openly. As gay men such as myself demand the abolishment of Section 377, it is contingent upon us to also make efforts towards a more stringent law against sexual predators who target children.

The case of Divyansh Kakora, the Ryan International School student in Delhi whose body was found inside a tank on school premises, indicates that something sinister was afoot.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has assured the parents of the child that a full probe will be conducted given there are signs that Divyansh may not have fallen into the tank of his own accord. It seems from the evidence that he may have been violated. This, and other cases, make the need for stringent punishment for child sexual abuse urgent.

Just last month, the Supreme Court directed the government to frame "harsher" laws to deal with the malady. The court however refused to give its opinion on chemical castration of the guilty, a plea that has been made at many forums. Since children of either gender continue to face grave risk, the law should take cognizance of the matter.

Under the reformed rape laws in the aftermath of Nirbhaya, the definition of a rape victim now includes both men and women (the perpetrator, however, is male as recognised by the law). This now needs to include child victims as well. Gay rights activists need to come out more strongly against child sexual molestation so that concerns such as those raised by the Newslaundry commentator are addressed.

It helps no one to diss such concerns under the garb of bigotry or stupidity. The impression that gays are sexual predators will need to be fought tooth and nail, and all of us demanding equality should be especially interested in this discussion.

Indeed, cases of molestation abound within the community. I have met many men who were molested as children and when asked if they feel that had something to do with their homosexuality, are unable to say one way or the other.

The question itself, I concede, is problematic, since it frames homosexuality as something undesirable. But surely, we should not be so steeped in political correctness as to turn blind to the ravages of abuse. True, homosexuality is too complex to allow mapping on a few factors.

That said, if it happens to be an outcome of abuse in certain cases, that would make for a wretched state of affairs. We homosexuals should have enough faith in ourselves to be able to have this discussion without its shifting the ground beneath our feet. Shutting things out is not the solution. Far better to bring it out into the open, as Harrish Iyer has courageously done, so that a rational, informed debate can take place.

A greater confidence in our gayness should enable us to ask if there may be cases where the homosexually inclined have done grievous harm to others. Bringing this out in the open is important not just for the sake of the victims but also to further the cause of equality.

Let us concede that there are bad apples among us, men who rape and plunder the innocence of others, so that justice may be done to them.

Nothing sanitises a place better than sunlight. As the veil of ignorance around homosexuality lifts in this country, we need to focus attention on the ills that a long silence has wrought. From sexual abuse to marriages of convenience, let us not leave any topic untouched in order that the fight of the lonesome homosexual looking for love is strengthened.

Last updated: February 06, 2016 | 16:12
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