Homosexuality in India

Namit Arora in Shunya’s Notes:

Nandadevitemple07As a boy in India, I often heard rumors of “buggering” being commonplace in elite boarding schools for boys. This was partly spoken of as a passing phase of rakishness and fun, the subtext being: they’ll discover what real sex is when they grow up. In their lucid new book, The Indians, Sudhir and Katherina Kakar recount a story about Ashok Row Kavi, a well-known Indian gay activist. Apparently when Ashok was young and being pressured to marry by his family, especially by his aunt, he finally burst out that he liked to fuck men. “I don’t care whether you fuck crocodiles or elephants,” the aunt snapped back. “Why can’t you marry?”

As in many other societies, procreation also underpins the Indian sense of social and familial order. Any threat to this social order is instinctively resisted, though the resistance takes many forms. In the Christian West, homosexuality was persecuted as a sin against god (less often, it was seen as a disease). Indians, on the other hand, denied the very idea of homosexuality, while tolerating homosexual acts—a trick made possible by regarding these acts not as sex but as a kind of erotic fun, or masti. Sex is only what happens in the context of procreation, usually within marriage. Sex is what makes babies, and the truly virile men, of course, produce male babies.

It is no surprise then, that the notion of a homosexual liaison as a proud and equal alternate to a heterosexual one doesn’t exist outside a small set of urban Indians; that would be seen as a threat to the social order. Instead, the Indian response is: As long as men fulfill their traditional obligations to family and progeny, their homosexual acts are (uneasily) tolerated.

More here. Namit also provides this video of gay Indian-American comedian Vidur Kapoor: