India: India’s two successful gay men have chosen not to shy away but openly admit to their different sexual orientation even though the country’s Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
Sex between consenting homosexuals is illegal, making them criminals who can be jailed for up to 10 years. The Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling, reversing the July 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court decriminalizing gay sex between consenting adults.
That ended a four-year period of decriminalization while reinstating a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
The Supreme Court has upheld its decision while reviewing a petition by the government against the December ruling upholding a law that criminalizes gay sex.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes sex with persons of same gender punishable by law. According to Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, male homosexual relations are an “unnatural offence” and punishable.
Vikram Seth is a celebrated author in the Indian literary scene. In an interview with CNN-IBN, Vikram called for a repeal of a section of the Indian constitution that outlawed homosexuality, saying that the laws were archaic and morribund, and arguing that even the British who had introduced the laws had repealed them in their own country.
The 61-year-old Padma Shri recipient has also penned down a heartfelt poem expressing his anguish over the recent verdict of criminalizing gay sex titled ‘Through love’s great power’.
Through Love’s Great Power
Through love’s great power to be made whole
In mind and body, heart and soul -
Through freedom to find joy, or be
By dint of joy itself set free
In love and in companionhood:
This is the true and natural good.
To undo justice, and to seek
To quash the rights that guard the weak -
To sneer at love, and wrench apart
The bonds of body, mind and heart
With specious reason and no rhyme:
This is the true unnatural crime. (Vikram Seth)
Seth (born on 20 June 1952) has written several novel and poetry books. He has received several awards including Padma Shri, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award.
Much of his writing discusses gay and bisexual themes. In A Suitable Boy, there are homosexual undercurrents in the friendship between Maan and Firoz.
The other Indian celebrity to publically state his homosexual orientation is Onir.
The Bengali Film director, editor writer and producer is best known for his critically acclaimed movie ‘My Brother…Nikhil.’
Onir told AFP that he has been insulted live on television and regularly receives abusive mails but that this is still better than being “invisible.” The man behind the critically-acclaimed “My Brother… Nikhil” says he knows what it’s like to be Bollywood’s only openly gay director.
Onir, who uses one name, first started making waves with his 2005 film based on the real life story of swimming champion Dominic D’Souza, the southern Indian state of Goa’s first reported case of HIV. After testing HIV positive in the late 1980s amid a climate of fear and ignorance, D’Souza was arrested by police and kept in forced isolation in a tuberculosis ward.
Onir, 51, is the only high-profile Bollywood figure to publicly acknowledge his sexuality. But as a gay man he says he is far from alone in the Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry, reports AFP.
In 2012, Onir’s fourth movie “I Am”, made up of four short films, returned to the subject of same sex relationships alongside other taboos such as sperm donation and child abuse. The feature was named best Hindi film at India’s 2012 National Film Awards, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars.
Both Vikram Seth and Onir are Bengalis having their roots in Bengal, eastern India.