As the LGBT community waits for the Supreme Court to examine the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises gay sex, every voice that supports the community in this legal battle has to be welcomed. It adds numbers to the required support and to an extent reflects a changing view of society at least in the case of same-sex love, and whether making love to a partner of the same sex is a criminal act.
In this context, one has to welcome the statement by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh joint general secretary, Dattatreya Hosabale, who said on Thursday that gay sex is not a crime. Coming from a hardline Hindutva group, this statement was surprising since this is not the line that the RSS has openly taken in the past. Predictably though, Hosabale did not go the entire distance in embracing the LGBT community. A day later, he added that while not a crime, homosexuality is "a psychological case".
In a way, he has done exactly what Pope Francis did, but his caveat or correction has come much faster.
While referring to the gay community in 2013, the Pope said “Who am I to judge?” indicating that the church saw all as equal or at least had to stop discriminating on sexuality. The remark became famous and was repeated in August last year when Pope Francis suggested that people should be more compassionate towards LGBTs.
In-between though, with a divided church, the Pope told an audience in the Philippines, home to Asia’s largest Catholic population, that gay marriage was a threat to the family structure. This caused a lot of disappointment among people like me.
Yet, once again, he raised hopes when he was quoted this year as saying: “If a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person. I was paraphrasing by heart the Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that these people should be treated with delicacy and not be marginalised.”
Where Pope Francis and Hosabale seem to meet is their posturing towards a perceived “liberal kindness” that allows them to connect with a period and time, where human rights as a basic to humanity is being seen as critical. Both wish to be more accepting if not appear a lot more tolerant than the bodies they represent are known to be.
Just like the Pope’s famous “Who am I to judge?”, Hosabale reportedly says “Why should RSS have an opinion on homosexuality?”
In his initial statement on homosexuality, made at a media conclave in Delhi on Thursday, Hosabale took the live and let live approach when he said, “It is not a crime as long as it does not affect the lives of others”. Many assumed that when he used the word “affect”, he was referring to rape or force as well as privacy.
A day later, however, he knocked off most of his perceived liberalism (just like the Pope did in Philippines) by referring to homosexuality as a mental ailment and gay marriage being the “institutionalisation” of my community.
These follow-up tweets are his endorsement of the regressive belief of society that lives in an un-admitted insecurity where my right to love and have a family is an infringement of a heterosexual’s right to foster the same desire. His thought supports the many doctors who offer conversion therapies to naturally-born homosexuals, ultimately trying to alter their nature even as the medical profession long ago removed homosexuality from the list of ailments or diseases of any kind. His view allows the Medical Council of India to remain inactive on this subject.
Hosabale represents the same inequality that religion builds its ideologies and theories on. He is the face of many religious leaders who compete and divide the world on virtually playing a game of market economics, which uses power to enforce a sense of superiority that comes from the consumption of what they advocate by an insecure human race.
The point is that while I am happy to have one more voice with us, I know that voice can only add a number as we hinge almost all our hopes on the Supreme Court. We rely on a Constitution and a view of equality and secularism that rises above the words of a Pope, a Hosabale or any other religious leader that cages society through its preachings. After all, none of them wish to change society in a fuller way. Had they wished to, a Section 377 and the oppression against us may never have happened.