What’s wrong with the government?” It was Pertie on the phone from Paris. He sounded both exasperated and bewildered. “How can they claim legalising homosexual relations between consenting adults will lead to a breach of the peace? What on earth are they anticipating?”
“Oh come,” I said not quite tut-tutting but still not taking him seriously. “Why are you surprised? What else did you expect?”
“Just listen to the arguments the government has come up with: they claim homosexuality is a reflection of a perverse mind, they call it a social vice, they even call it a health hazard! What century are they living in? Would any sensible, self-respecting, modern democracy think in these terms?”
“But that’s what they think!” I was a bit perplexed. Surely, he knew this?
“Why are you so angry?”
“Because when the government files an affidavit in court it needs to think about what it’s saying. This is not an individual opinion and it needs to be more than the flippant or glib arguments you present in a drawing room conversation. You have to be more considered and careful. I would have understood if they based their opposition on the fact Indian society won’t accept homosexuality. That could even be true. But why drag in a false and antediluvian moral argument? It betrays an intolerance and an illiberal mindset that diminishes the government.”
“But the guys who run the government probably are intolerant and ill-liberal when it comes to homosexuality!” Again, I would have thought that was obvious.
“Perhaps”, but Pertie clearly wasn’t prepared to leave it at that. “The problem is intolerance is unacceptable from a democratically elected government. And even more so from one that claims to espouse liberal values.”
This time there wasn’t much to say so I kept quiet. But Pertie was now in full flow. There was no holding him back.
“Look at how other democracies behave. In England public opinion would be entirely in favour of the death penalty. I dare say that’s true of India as well. But enlightened governments have put it in abeyance. And, in fact, that’s happening in India, too. Why then on the question of homosexuality is our government following, if not hiding behind, public opinion? How do they explain this contradiction?”
“Can you really compare the two?” I asked.
“And why not?” he countered, his voice rising to a falsetto. “If we don’t have the right to take someone’s life what makes you think we have the right to make someone’s life a living hell?”
Once again, I had nothing to say. Anyway, I wasn’t defending the government but only questioning Pertie’s vehement response. But, frankly, he was winning the argument hands down.
“People don’t choose to be homosexuals. It’s not a fashion or a fad. You either are one or you are not. And either way that’s how you’re born. God made homosexuals just as he made you and me or Shivraj Patil, Manmohan Singh and L. K. Advani. The funny thing is Delhi High Court judges seem to accept and understand that. Why can’t the seventy-and-eighty-year-olds who run the government?”
“You’re dead right about that”, I hastily added. I thought I had spotted an opportunity to diffuse his rage. “Do you know what the court said when the government claimed legalising adult homosexuality would spread Aids?”
“Do I?” Pertie laughed. In fact, he guffawed. “They said in that case why don’t you ban intercourse altogether! It’s headline news all over Europe. And now do you know what the French are predicting?”
“What?” I wondered what he would say next.
“It won’t be long before the government bans sex altogether! India, thanks to our foolish politicians, has become the butt of jokes.” Pertie paused whilst I muttered something inconsequential. “Except I don’t like being made a fool of by my government.”
“Ah well,” I said, sensing a chance to grab the initiative. “It’s not the first time and it definitely won’t be the last. Here’s what you should say to the French: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.”
6 months ago