“Homosexuality is nothing but perversion and moral degradation and should never be allowed in our society. We are very happy with the [Supreme Court] verdict”. There is no point identifying the speaker because it doesn’t matter: after all, he was only echoing the thoughts of many other religious leaders — ranging from the Hindu spiritual groups, the Muslim Personal Law Board, the Utkal Christian Council and the Apostolic Churches Alliance — who had moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi High Court order decriminalising gay sex.
In a landmark judgment in July 2009, the Delhi High Court had excluded adult consensual gay sex, conducted in private, from the scope of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Wednesday’s judgment of the two-judge bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi revived the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with life imprisonment and threw the ball into Parliament’s court for amending the law.
By supporting the SC ruling, the spiritual leaders seem to believe that they have the sole authority on the issue to speak for their constituencies. But in reality, they don’t. In fact, just after the news broke, many came out against the order — and they were not just from the “minuscule” gay section. The social media was agog with discussions on the ruling and there was anger against the ruling and many pointed out that there is nothing “un-Indian” in being a homosexual.
Even as this debate ensued in the country, there were some spiritual voices that spoke against the order: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said on Wednesday that homosexuality had never been considered a crime in Hindu culture. On Twitter, he wrote that “Homosexuality has never been considered a crime in Hindu culture. In fact, Lord Ayyappa was born of Hari-Hara (Vishnu and Shiva).”
He also tweeted “Nobody should face discrimination because of their sexual preferences. To be branded a criminal for this is absurd.” In fact, Christian leaders should also be aware that the Pope himself has been understanding of same-sex relationship. In the face of such support, can religious leaders claim that religious sentiments were hurt after the Delhi HC order? We think not.