In making homosexuality illegal in India once again, the Supreme Court is playing a most regressive and reactionary role. We fully and unconditionally condemn the law in place i.e. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and call for its immediate repeal.
The LGBT rights movement has been building momentum in recent years, encouraged by the decision of the Delhi High Court in 2009 striking down section 377 as unconstitutional. With this latest judgment, however, the gender rights movement has been set back not just years but what feels like decades.
The reactionary role of the state in personal relationships:
The aim of the repressive State is not merely to prevent men and men (or women and women) from forming loyalties which it might not be able to control. Its real, undeclared purpose is to remove all pleasure from the sexual act from a sizable section of the population. Love has got nothing to do with any of this; for the state free sensual pleasure is the enemy, inside marriage as well as outside it. All marriages between heterosexuals have to be officially sanctioned by the Law, and although the principle is never clearly stated the only “official” purpose of marriage is to beget children for the service of the State and the system of individual property ownership mediated by the family. Sexual intercourse is regarded as a necessary evil, a safety valve for the human sexual drive (which is totally irrepressible) that is tolerated within marriage and as high-jinks of the rich. It’s like having an enema to relieve constipation. This again is never put into plain words, but in an indirect way it is rubbed into every citizen through religion and congealed tradition. There are even organizations and philosophies advocating complete celibacy for both sexes. The sick behaviour this kind of thing can lead to was notoriously exemplified in the bedtime habits of the great Indian hypocrite and anti-humanist Mahatma Gandhi.
The State would love to kill the sex instinct, but since it cannot be killed, then it does its best to distort it and dirty it. And as far as women are concerned, the State’s efforts have historically speaking been rather successful, trapping most Indian women in a mental cage of social taboos and inhibitions and threatening them with severe punishment if they dare to step outside it. In the raging jungle warfare of real society, in the streets and spaces of India’s swollen cities, where the “protections” and “equalities” of the Law are the music of a distant paradise, women are threatened with assault, violation, rape or death if they leave the safe physical cage of home or a protective male escort.
This situation doesn’t only apply to India, although India is notorious throughout the world for the animal brutality of its sexual violence against women. In many, if not most, poor and oppressed countries, especially perhaps in Latin America where the Catholic church exerts its centuries old stranglehold over personal relationships, women are subject to the most degrading discrimination and contempt.
And the same goes, only more so, for those outside the straight heterosexual world of traditional marriage. Gays, lesbians, bi- and transsexuals are all vulnerable to discrimination and merciless aggression all over the world – even in countries where the law has belatedly begun to recognize their activities as normal expressions of human interpersonal behaviour.
The millenia-old ideals of the Catholic church, as epitomized in the institutions imposed on monks and nuns, are socially, physically and mentally enslaving. Poverty, chastity and obedience are not ideals which create free, harmonious and fulfilled human beings – and they were not intended to be! Nor is typically Indian religious deviltry like temple prostitution.
The character of the leadership of the LGBT struggle :
This judgement has given rise to several immediate consequences. Besides the sheer danger to life and limb that it represents for all LGBT activists, there is a growing frustration with the old “respectable” bourgeois leadership and their ‘apolitical’, liberalist stance that is completely and starkly justified by the ease with which their efforts have been spat on and nullified by the state and its institutions in the shape of this judgment.
The blindingly obvious weakness of the old leadership is its social base in the better-off sections of Indian society, the bourgeoisie and the socially climbing petty bourgeoisie and to some extent the labour aristocracy (bureaucrats, specialists, supervisors, etc). The dominance of the bourgeoisie in directing and building up the LGBT rights struggle has directly given it an exclusive and elitist nature, alienating it from much of the working class. This alienation is what has weakened the movement till this point, making it easy for rabble-rousing reactionaries to whip up lumpen hatred against suspicious ‘other’ behaviour. “Look at these freaks, their problems are not your problems, their demands have nothing to do with you! They are the reason society is falling apart and you are suffering.” It’s the usual reactionary ploy of divide and rule, setting up scapegoats to blame for the troubles of the mass of ordinary people. Pitting sections of the working class against each other instead of the real enemy, the real cause of their frustration and misery, the capitalists at home in India and throughout the world who are exploiting their cheap labour to make themselves fortunes – and who incidentally flout every principle of morality and decency in their own ‘private’ lives. As the antics of the former Italian prime minister and archetypal capitalist brute Silvio Berlusconi so eloquently testify.
To make any real progress the gender struggle needs to put down roots in the Indian mass movement and make common cause with the demands of the working class for equality of opportunity, economic justice, an end to discrimination and exploitation, and a society in which every individual can fulfil his or her potential regardless of their social origin or personal constitution.
This means that it is not enough to simply be ‘political’ and fill the pages of newspapers with good arguments. The only people capable of leading the movement to real advance will have to be class-conscious and have the ability to win the backing of the working masses. This will not be as difficult as bourgeois intellectuals and activists fear, as the working masses have no problem with supporting real democratic demands that mean progress and improvement for the whole of society, as the history of democratic reforms worldwide has shown time and again in relation to votes for women, the provision of birth control, the right of women to economic equality and ownership of property, etc. And also in many countries today, in the legal acknowledgement of serious long-term unmarried relationships in relation to children and property, and in the recognition of marriages between people of the same sex.
What is to be done :
Our demands for the LGBT movement are few and straightforward:
1) Equal rights for LGBT
We demand that the LGBT community be entitled to full rights of marriage and civil union which any citizen of India are entitled to before law. All discriminatory laws which prohibit the full and free sexual expression of the LGBT community must be undone and existing laws amended to give recognition to LGBT rights.
2) Protection against discrimination
Sexual minorities suffer from daily harassment and humiliation. When they turn to the law for protection, they get nothing but betrayal and further humiliation and harassment. The existing laws are hopelessly inadequate, and in some cases outright discriminatory against the LGBT community. A new law must be made to ensure protection to this community, A Prohibition of Discrimination Act.
3) Full rights of organisation and association
The right to organize and form associations of the LGBT community must be given statutory recognition. These organizations, be it support groups or activist groups, are among the few bulwarks the community has in a hostile social environment. This must be encouraged and given official public support and recognition.
Finally, we declare that the ultimate intention of revolutionary socialists is to abolish the present male supremacist and chauvinistic social structure that is inherent in capitalism. This abolition of bourgeois society (and its mindless prioritizing of private profit to the detriment of general public good) goes hand in hand with abolishing the antiquated and repressive family structure itself and making way for a communist society.