At the recently-concluded ZEE Jaipur Literary Festival (ZEEJLF), actor-director Karan Johar said much to the surprise of everyone present, “We are in a tough country and to speak about one’s personal life can land you in jail.You can change the way the government functions, but how do you change the thinking of the average man in the house, it doesn’t matter what bill you pass and what dharna you do.” We may guess alright, but that Johar was speaking about homosexuality is very thinly veiled.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Johar is right. In February, 2014, a gay man from Ahmedabad alleged that he was raped by cops who identified him from a pride parade in the city. In November, 2013, the Karnataka police arrested 13 people in Hassan under section 377 by entering into their homes under the pretext of being from the HIV Prevention unit. These and many more cases, of lesbian women being raped, of gay men being branded, form the zeitgeist of how India at large views queer people and their sexual identities.On Tuesday, as the Supreme Court takes up a curative petition on section 377 filed by the Naz Foundation and a body of queer activists against its December 2013 decision upholding the colonial law, it is important to look at whether culturally we allow homosexual reference in our popular culture.Karan Johar is also remembered as the director of Dostana, a movie that he believes brought gay relationships to our living rooms, and which, however, several believe did more disservice to queer representation that the service it rendered. But, just as we look up to the Supreme Court, there’s also the case of Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh based on the life of a gay professor from Aligarh University who took his own life because of the ostracisation he faced. The movie had now earned an A-certificate from the Censor Board because the chief Pahlaj Nihalani feels that gay relationships, unlike ‘porn comedies’ like Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hai Hum 3, are not for youngsters. “Tell me, is the subject of homosexuality for kids? For teenagers?,” he asked reporters.Around the world, several countries have legalised same-sex marriages, while in India even consenting straight sex encounters may fall on the wrong side of the law because of the clauses of section 377. As Justice N Kirubakaran of the Madras HC noted in a judgment recently, the lack of a protective policy for the queer have left them in the lurch. “When more than 30 countries, including a conservative nation like Ireland, have decriminalised homosexuality and legalised gay marriage by way of referendum, getting 62.07 per cent votes in favour, why not India decriminalise homosexuality?”, he said in his judgement.Here we are, still debating whether Aligarh should be viewed by teenagers or not, and whether same-sex relationships are indeed criminal or not. Will we ever see our own Brokeback Mountain, Blue is the Warmest Colour, The Kids are Alright, or Milk?Same-sex marriagesAllowed in fourteen countries including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay, and is allowed in parts of Denmark, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom. In about 76 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Yemen, Syria, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania, Nigeria, India etc., same-sex marriages are illegal.
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