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Subramanian Swamy on Twitter gets called out for being a homophobe

Pathikrit Sanyal
Pathikrit SanyalJan 09, 2018 | 15:53

Subramanian Swamy on Twitter gets called out for being a homophobe

A 2016 Outlook profile of senior BJP member and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy used a number of epithets to describe the man. Indiscreet, pugnacious, unpredictable, loose cannon and destructive genius were a few of them. On January 8, adding to that list, Indian social media used two more words to address him, quite a few times: "bigot" and "homophobe" .

Indians disgraced

Swamy displayed utter callousness, when in an interview he proclaimed: “As long as [homosexuals] don't celebrate it, don't flaunt it, and don’t create gay bars to select partners, it's not a problem. In their privacy what they do, nobody can invade but if you flaunt it, it has to be punished and therefore there has to be Section 377 of the IPC.”

He was commenting on Supreme Court’s decision to revisit its 2013 verdict on Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises anal and oral sex.

India, actually Indians, have a hard time coming to terms with the very idea of homosexuality. It has been called unnatural. It has been called a disease (and a certain yoga guru even claimed to know a cure). It has been called western influence.

Essentially, Indians have a problem accepting that a section of the society chooses not to accept the heteronormative ideas we have grown up to see as facts.

Indians also have a hard time dealing with the public display of affection, even when heterosexual couples indulge in it. Remember the moral policing that followed the 2014 “Kiss of Love” campaign?

It should thus become clear that even in 2018, it is utterly impossible for Indians to not only accept the idea that homosexuality is normal, but that even its public display and expression is okay.

swamy-lgbt_010818110428.jpgPhoto: DailyO

That Swamy thinks it is legitimate to “punish” people for flaunting their sexual orientation — ironically missing the fact that modern Indian popular culture is chock-full of people flaunting their cisgendered heterosexuality — is telling of how Indians view gayness.

Do homophobes imagine homosexuals as perverts and nymphomaniacs? One hopes reason prevails.

But it is 2018 and there are those who see the BJP leader for what he is.

Understanding Swamy’s psyche is not difficult, for one it is shared by many in India. It is this psyche that sees homosexuality, not as love but as sexual deviance. It is this psyche that reduces the debate around homosexuality to nothing more than what goes around “in the bedroom”. It is the psyche that makes room for the Transgenders Bill, 2016: a highly problematic bill which seeks to ban begging and sex work and establish screening committees to certify trans people.

It is the same psyche that made Justice GS Singhvi and Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya overturn the 2009 Delhi High Court decision to decriminalise anal and oral sex. It is the same psyche that made author and columnist Chetan Bhagat spew out something as condescending as, “Any breakthrough in gay rights should not spill out on the streets, in the form of Western inspired gay parades or anything that presents being gay as being somewhat fashionable or cool.”

Calling Swamy ignorant, old-fashioned, brash or even unpredictable does not cut it. Swamy, like a majority of Indians, is a homophobe. If he is ignorant about what homosexuality is, it is his lack of education on the subject. And there is plenty of information on the case, countless non-heterosexual experiences that are written about, which Swamy needs to open his eyes to. 

If this is old-fashioned, it’s time Swamy's thoughts go out of fashion.

In 1970, during a Parliament debate on the budget, then prime minister Indira Gandhi dismissed Subramanian Swamy, then a Janata Party leader, as a “Santa Claus with unrealistic ideas”. Close to half a century later, it is time for us to dismiss him as a bigot who has no idea.

Last updated: January 09, 2018 | 16:58
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