Ruling On Gay Sex Restores India’s Ancient Legacy, Experts Say

Ruling On Gay Sex Restores India’s Ancient Legacy, Experts Say

James Kirk 2 weeks ago

The decriminalization of gay sex was one of the biggest news stories of 2018 in India.

But the notion that India has taken a step toward Western ideals of liberalism regarding sexuality is erroneous, India's historians and mythologists say. They say it’s the British who, during imperial rule, made homosexuality illegal on the basis of Christian beliefs. Earlier, India was more open to same-gender relations.

Historian Harbans Mukhia says: "The British brought their own rules to India, including Section 377, which banned homosexuality and made it a criminal act. This law was enforced by them, but it didn't conform with India's attitude toward homosexuality. It was more to do with their Christian belief systems.”

According to experts quoted in a BBC.com feature, the Supreme Court decision decriminalizing gay sex has taken India back to its roots. India’s historians and mythologists say that in medieval India love was celebrated in all its forms and that in mythology instances of same-gender sex obviously exist.

Historian Rana Safvi says, “Whether ancient or medieval India, fluid sexuality was present in the society. One can see the depictions of homosexuality in the temples of Khajuraho and Mughal chronicles.”

Instances exist in medieval history.

"Alauddin Khalji's son, Mubarak, was known to be in a relationship with one of the noble men in his court," Mukhia adds.

Khalji ruled the Delhi sultanate between 1296 and 1316. Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty, who ruled in the 16th and 17th centuries, wrote about his love for men.

Evidence of the awareness of same-gender relationships and transgender identities exists in India’s mythology and ancient sculptures.

Arjun, a male character in the Indian epic Mahabharata, assumes the role of a woman in the court of King Virata for a year.

The most explicit examples of “fluid sexuality” can be seen in the Khajuraho temples in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. These monuments were built between 950 and 1050 by the Chandela dynasty. The 13th-Century Sun Temple in Konark in the Eastern state of Odisha depicts eroticism between women.

Keshav Suri, a prominent gay rights activist, says the young people of India should know that India was a more open and tolerant society.

Experts agree that the recent Supreme Court ruling has restored what India had lost during colonial rule. 

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