Section 377 has been a heated topic of discussion off late, with the Supreme Court gearing up to review the controversial law that criminalises gay sex, some like Muhammed Unais, a 25-year-old Kerala Muslim who was the first man from his religion and state to come out of the closet, believe it still doesn’t mean that it would make things easier for the LGBTQIA community to live in the society.
Last week, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra decided to revisit the 2013 verdict upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that bans consensual sexual acts between members of the same sex, and referred a petition against the controversial colonial law to a larger bench.
While the Supreme Court verdict rekindled hope among the LGBTQ community across the nation, how much will this help people like Unais? Unais, who holds a post graduate degree in English literature, says his family was nearly ostracized and death threats had become the normal.
“My gay identity has cost me a lot of friends who started distancing themselves after I came out. Even those who support me are afraid to come out in public and lend support fearing backlash from the society,”
Unais remembers how the Khateeb, one who gives sermons during Friday prayers, started shaming his parents in public.
“Without taking our names, he said that this is what happens when you send your children for higher studies,”
It all started after Unais attended the LGBTQ parade in Kochi last year. He had uploaded a photo of himself on Facebook, wearing a black lungi and a green shirt. His inbox was flooded both with messages of support and hate.
Being gay and practicing his religion has now proved to be a task for Unais, who no longer attends prayers at the mosque, something that has been an important part of his growing up. Every time he would visit the mosque, the crowd there would stare at him or ask questions.
Unais, however, is of the opinion that Islam has always been a good place for queer people.
“I strongly believe Islam is very accepting but many Muslims are not. It is the existing social norms and the society that against us. There are many, including some Muslim scholars who lend support to the LGBT cause, but in private. They hardly come out in public fearing a backlash,” says Unais.
Unais remembers, as a child, his on only prayer at the dargahs would be to get his sexual orientation changed. However, three years ago, Unais finally mustered the courage to come out.
The 25-year-old feels that the Quran supports the rights of the LGBTQ community. “It is the wrong interpretation of Quran that proves the basis for many who argue that Islam doesn’t support gay rights,” he says.
“Ever since I have announced my identity on Facebook, threat calls have become normal and mostly from Muslims with extremist ideas. They say I am maligning their religion.” One of them even went on to say that he’ll kill him by that evening.
Thus, Unais still believes that scrapping of Section 377 would not make much of a difference for people like him, until the society changes.
Would Section 377 have no effect on societal view of the LGBTQIA community? It could be a step towards the society recognizing the existence of the community since the Government has acknowledged it or vice versa. There is no sure way of knowing when the Queer community will be accepted in society but what is for sure is that the fight towards equality still remains.