Dear Supreme Court, read the Kama Sutra

Ruth Vanita

India has always been on the side of erotic freedom.

Justice Singhvi asked commentators on the Supreme Court judgment in the Section 377 case to "read the judgment first". Having read it, my question is: what is the social or national interest that necessitates depriving consenting adults of their right to engage in sexual relationships in private? In a democracy, citizens can only be deprived of individual rights and freedoms if the exercise of these freedoms harms someone or endangers the national interest or security. The judgment nowhere states what the national interest is in banning some types of sexual relations.

"Man is many things, but he is not rational," wrote Oscar Wilde. Rationally, a relationship between two consenting adults affects nobody but themselves. But some people, imagining the sexual acts of others, feel irrational fear and disgust. This fear often leads them to persecute those whose sexual practices may be different from their own, and to enshrine such persecution in irrational laws. Wilde's imprisonment and untimely death, and the persecution of Ramchandra Siras in Aligarh in 2010, leading to his untimely death, for engaging in sex in his own bedroom, are examples of the terrible toll taken by these laws.

The judgment claims that the abolition of anti-sodomy laws in democracies worldwide (from Europe to Latin America to South Africa to Canada) is irrelevant because "these judgments cannot be applied blindfolded for deciding the constitutionality of the law enacted by the Indian legislature". Consider the logic here. Britain exported an anti-sodomy law into India in 1860. The Indian legislature did not "enact" this law; it simply accepted it. In 1967, this law was abolished in England. The abolition of the law in England is not relevant, the court would have us believe, but somehow this archaic law imported from England remains relevant.

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