Members of the Indian LGBTQI community issued an open letter to the editors of Bangalore Mirror, after the journal reported the arrest of a married man for violating Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a British colonial-era law that criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with a man, woman or animal”. The case was also reported by New York Times.
Re: Your article ‘Sec 377 slapped on Infosys techie after wife catches his gay acts on spycam’ by K Praveen Kumar and Prakruti PK in Bangalore Mirror dated October 29, 2014
We members of the Indian LGBTIQ community found your article on application of 377 charges on a Bangalore resident to be one sided. We do not condone the alleged acts perpetrated on the complainant by the accused and his parents. However, we want to point out that he too is a victim of a society that forces queer people into marriage and pushes them into the closet. We are concerned about the abrogation of rights to equality and privacy of the accused by the application of Section 377 on two adults having consensual sexual relations in private, in this instance. We find it unbearably ironic, that the same Section 377 whose existence creates an environment in which LGBTIQ people have no option but to enter into such marriages, is being used against the accused.
If the same accused had been caught cheating with a married woman, he could have been charged with Sec 497 adultery, a bailable, non-cognisable offence with a punishment of 5 years imprisonment. Instead, he is facing life imprisonment under the draconian cognisable, non-bailable Section 377. Equally ironically, if it was his wife who was cheating on him, Section 497 would not even apply. This is the reality of arbitrariness and misplaced morality of both sections 377 and 497, which should not remain as guardians of warped conservative values in a democratic society such as India’s.
Distressingly, the article seems to be inviting readers to poke fun at the accused’s choice of dress, forgetting that this is his protected, inalienable Right to Free Expression. This is plain homophobia and bigotry towards people who transgress gender norms, and we strongly condemn it.
Lastly, it is unfortunate that you have provided identifying information about the accused, including his employing company. This is an inexcusable abrogation of any accused’s rights.
We would like to emphasise that media plays a very important role in sensitising readers about LGBTIQ issues. We request you to accordingly take a balanced approach in covering such cases, rather than a black and white, one-sided approach of right and wrong, victim and perpetrator. We would welcome an opportunity for a larger engagement with you and your staff on sensitive coverage of LGBTIQ issues.
Look forward as always to your support at Bengaluru Pride @ Karnataka Queer Habba this month. Please do join us in the march.
Arindom Sharmila Mitra, Mumbai
L Ramakrishnan, Chennai
Lesley Esteves, Delhi
Manak Matiyani, Delhi
Minal Hajratwala, PrideSpeak, Bangalore
Moulee, Orinam, Chennai
Navadeep, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Students
Noor Enayat, Delhi
R Vaishno Bharati
Rafiul Alom Rahman, Student activist, Delhi