Tuesday, March 27, 2012

blame it on the victorians

Last Friday marked a historical event in Indian history, as an 1860 law against homosexuality was finally repealed.  

What makes the event so odd and relevant to this blog is that this law was not made by any Indian government, but by the British Raj, the British government that ruled India between 1858 and 1947.  India's attorney general, G.E. Vahavanti, claimed that the anti-homosexuality law was not culturally Indian in nature, according to The Telegraph.  It's all the Victorians' fault:
"Homosexuals were...free to satisfy their fancies in India whereas in Britain they were widely despised and buggery was a capital crime until 1961," he said, quoting a book on the British Raj.

"Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the [British] Indian Penal Code [in 1860] had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at this time was under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex," he argued.
What I am a little confused by is why the law wasn't repealed along with a good many other laws soon after Indian independent in 1947?  One reason may be because the generations who had grown up with the law pre-1947 weren't capable of that sort of mind-set in the new Indian state- that there were other concerns that were more important than recognizing the rights of homosexuals at the time, such as the Partition issues regarding a Muslim or a Hindu state and all of the fighting that occurred as a result of it.

But 61 years?  Even my Indian boss thinks it's silly.  Although in 1947 it could have also been the result of years of "Victorian" indoctrination that had the general public not as accepting of homosexual relations as they were pre-1860, when the law was first enforced.

You can read the rest of The Telegraph's article, "British Raj 'Victorian prudery' to blame for Indian gay sex ban" by clicking on the link.

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