queer rights

Arrests for 'unnatural sex' soar. So do cases of gay people being blackmailed

Six hundred people were arrested for under section 377 in 2014. However, the government did not say how many of those arrests were for consensual sex.

Weeks after the Ministry of Home Affairs released figures saying that nearly 600 people had been arrested in 2014 under Section 377 in 2014, India’s queer community is cautious in its response.

On December 23, the home ministry presented data on all those arrested and charged under Section 377, which criminalises “sex against the order of nature” between January and October 2014, in response to a question by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi.

According to the data, 778 cases had been registered and 587 people had been arrested in this period. However, the charts are incomplete, as all states had not yet submitted their data for this period to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“This report might be accurate in terms of people arrested under Section 377, but 377 is used largely for non-consensual sex even with minors,” said Danish Sheikh of the Alternative Law Forum. “We don’t know how many of these cases are against consenting homosexuals.”

Vijay Hiremath, a lawyer working on the queer community’s issues in Mumbai, agreed.

“Unless they give a breakup of how they came up with this figure, I think we cannot say if there has been an increase in the prosecution of the community,” he said. “We need to analyse this by first information reports.”

In the ministry note, Maharashtra, for instance, had arrested 100 people under the section in this period, a sixth of the total number of arrests. Hiremath said it seemed highly unlikely that this could have happened without coming to the attention of activists.

“We don’t know if the police is silently taking action in districts,” he said. “We will really have to explore that.”

Prosecution, not persecution?

Since the Supreme Court judgment, there has been increased visibility of cases of persecution of the community. There has also been a change in how the section is now used. Blackmail has now become common.

“Earlier, Section 377 was used in terms of persecution, not prosecution,” said Sheikh. “Prosecuted cases are one kind of statistic. Persecution is another. People have used it to harass others with the threat of exposure.”

Akkai Padmashali, founder of Omdede, a transgender rights groups, said that there has been an increase in phobic attitudes since the the Supreme Court judgment. In Karnataka, 43 transgendered people have been arrested under different charges in the last four or five months. Five transgenders just sitting in Cubbon Park were arrested under 377.

“We are blackmailed by people in the public sector,” she said. “If you are a homosexual person sitting in a park, they demand that if you don’t give them money, they will tell your parents. Now they threaten to go to the police.”

Hiremath also pointed out an increase in the number of extortions, with four cases coming to him just from Mumbai in the last year.

“There is a provision under the Indian Penal Code where it says that if you try to extort money by threatening people with Section 377, you can get punishment up to life imprisonment,” Hiremath said. “Now in two of these cases, they have not applied this section to the offenders.”

A few months ago, a person paid Rs 10 lakh as extortion money before finally approaching Hiremath for help.

“I have been handling extortion cases for some time now, but people have never had to pay this amount,” he said. “People would usually ask for a gold chain or an expensive wristwatch. This also shows that the fear perception in community has increased.”

Who is being charged?

It is not yet clear whether the increase in numbers has to do with increased prosecution of the homosexual community or the continued application of the section to instances of child abuse.

Before the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012, the police charged child molesters under Section 377. The ministry holds no data for how often this section is still applied to them.

The ministry claims in its note that this is the first time the National Crime Records Bureau has begun to collect this data, but it has previously provided similar information on request. In 2006, activist Jyoti Puri published a report with data on the number of first information reports filed under Section 377.


Many of these cases, according to Puri’s study, had to do with instances of child sexual abuse.

“If a third of the number of cases between 1996 and 2005 has been achieved within ten months of a year, there has been a clear escalation in the number of cases,” said Sheikh. “We just cannot identify how much. Something is happening, but until we have a breakup of the figures, we don’t know what it could be.”

A crucial part of the Supreme Court judgment in setting aside the High Court verdict centred around the perceived size of the community. It noted that as per reported orders, not even 200 people had been prosecuted under Section 377 in the last 150 years. This number might now come into question with the ministry’s new data.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Inspiration for the lazy, the casual and the gourmet home chefs alike

Discover, or rediscover the daily delight in food, one ingredient at a time.

It is known that home chefs can be arranged in a pyramid - the lazy ones at the bottom, the casual cooks in the middle and the gourmet experts at the top. While the challenges differ with each level, great solutions exist to make every meal an experience, regardless of the kind of cook you are. This guide to creating delightful food has something for everyone.

The lazy, hassled home chefs

You can ease into cooking by putting together meals that require minimal technique. Salads are a good place to start. Experiment with seasonal and exotic fruits and vegetables, tender vegetables and herbs, and artisanal breads as sides for a fresh, healthy and surprisingly gourmet experience.

Don’t be dismayed if you’re a non-vegetarian. There are still meals that require next-to-no prep. Think sausages that can easily be fried or grilled and cold cuts that pack a flavour punch. Health-conscious people can look for additive-free, preservative-free meat, bromate free bread and produce from free-range farms for assurance of quality. For variety, you can even put together a great Middle Eastern platter with fresh hummus and other dips.

For the casual cooks looking to impress

So, you can cook a decent meal but are looking to give your food that X-factor? To liven up regular dishes, experiment with superfoods which make your meals nutritious and novel. Try combinations like oats chila, quinoa or couscous upmas or a sprinkle of chia seeds in your breakfast pudding. Look for quality imports and efficient distribution for maximum retention of nutrients in superfoods.

Skilled enough to host people? An upgrade from basic ingredients is the most visible sign of your culinary progression. Experiment with exotic herbs like parsley, rosemary and sage as garnishing for intriguing flavours in your soups and salads. For lip-smacking desserts, use exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, acai berries and rambutan – your guests will be delighted.

For the perfectionist gourmet chefs

You’re quite the culinary expert in your circles, but want to leap to the next level? At the core of a successful gourmet creation lie the best ingredients. Seek a delicatessen which gives you only the freshest and most diverse range of ingredients. You’ll notice the difference in flavours as you move from garlic powder to actual garlic, and from chilli powder to real paprika in your preparations.

From the basic to the exotic, whatever ingredients you seek to implement the tips we just gave you are available at Godrej Nature’s Basket, the best store for fresh, quality ingredients. As the video below shows, their online and offline stores source and serves a wide variety of foods - fruits & vegetables, authentic delicatessen, the finest meats, irresistible bakery products, ready-to-cook sauces, healthy snacks and more.

Play

Health-conscious people can also be assured of unmatched quality. You can choose from pesticide free offerings, organic fruits and vegetables, steroid-free meats, first catch of the day fish and seafood, bromate free bread and the best dairy and cheese from all over the world.

With their collection of hors d’oeuvre, artisanal breads, confectionary and desserts, there’s really no limit to what you can achieve daily in your kitchen. What’s more, all these high-quality products come at great, affordable prices.

To elevate your cooking and discover a world where food is a delight every day, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Nature’s Basket and not by the Scroll editorial team.