We, the members of the National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities of the National Council of Churches in India note the decision of the Supreme Court of India on 8th January 2018 to refer to a Constitution Bench a petition seeking to quash Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes homosexuality. The apex court has observed that a section of people cannot live in fear of the law which atrophies their right to choice and natural sexual inclinations.
Homosexuality and homo-eroticism have been practiced in India from time immemorial. Homosexual activity was never condemned or criminalized in ancient India. Such activities were tolerated as long as people fulfilled the societal expectations of marriage and procreation.
This is the context in which the British came to India as part of their mission of colonial expansion.
In Great Britain, from the Middle Ages, heterosexuality was understood as the divinely ordered and natural norm for human sexuality, and any deviance from this norm was perceived as immoral and unnatural, and hence a sin against God. Christian sexual ethics based on heteronormativity thus led to the imposition of Sodomy Law in Great Britain.
The understanding of sexual ethics of the British colonial administration was deeply influenced by Victorian morality and its particular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian scripture and theology. So, the British authorities considered tolerance towards homosexuality as a social evil, and based on heteronormative principles, they initiated stringent measures to criminalize homoeroticism as part of their mission to civilize the heathens in India. In 1861, the British colonial administration imposed the Sodomy Laws in India to “purify” and “cure” the Indians of their primitive and deviant sexual practices.
Today, there are around seventy countries in the world which continue to criminalize private same-sex intimacy between consenting adults, and eleven countries that still impose the death penalty for homosexuals. The fact is that most of these countries are former British colonies. However, in 1967, the United Kingdom repealed the Sodomy laws, and the Church of England played a significant role in it. The first report in Britain, calling for decriminalization, was initiated and published by the Anglican Church. Further, there was a significant Anglican presence in the Wolfenden Committee, appointed by the government, which recommended to the Parliament to repeal the Sodomy Law.
In the contemporary context of growing fascism, it is important for us to understand the Sodomy Law as legal codes of fascism as they provide the State the power to intervene, invade, regulate, and monitor even the intimate spheres of human life. Read more via NCCI