On December 11, 2013 the Supreme Court held that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults would remain a criminal offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a 19th century law which prohibits sex ‘against the order of nature’, dealing a major blow to the largely closeted community in the world’s largest democracy.
Critics of the SC judgment have argued that the ancient Indian society had greater tolerance of homosexual behavior and homophobic trends were not indigenous to the country. The erotic sculptures in the ancient Hindu temples such as Khajuraho and Konark, and sacred Sanskrit texts suggest that homosexuality was known and was not disapproved by the ancient Hindu society. While the fourth century Kamasutra non-judgmentally categorized men who desired other men as a ‘third nature’ and described in detail homosexual behavior and union, Hindu medical
texts which date back to the first century incorporate detailed taxonomy of gender and sexual variations including same-sex desire.
Legal historians have propounded that European Christians on their arrival in India, who were influenced by the Victorian morality with regard to the procreative nature of sex, were taken aback by the range of sexual practices prevalent in the Hindu society, and modern day homophobia came to be inscribed into the scholastic, legal and political discourse through colonization, and thus homophobic trends which were once marginal came to become dominant.
Section 377 of the IPC reads: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”