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We’re criminals: India’s notorious Article 377

25. June 2016 19:00

Lecture by R. Raj Rao (University of Tübingen)

Lord Thomas Babbington Macaualay introduced Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 1861. It criminalized what it called “unnatural sex” which was largely taken to mean anal and oral sex that homosexual men practiced.

Hence it came to be seen as an anti-gay law. The law still exists in India, though Britian itself got rid of it in 1961. The talk focusses on how the law plays itself out in modern day India; on the attempts by gay activists and the media to abolish it; on the brief reprieve we got between July 2009 and December 2013 when the Delhi High Court “read down” the law to exclude consenting adult homosexuals; and on the unwillingness of the BJP government at the centre and of the Supreme Court to amend the law, as progressive thinking would demand.

The speaker, R. Raj Rao, currently teaching at Tübingen University, Germany, is a fiction and non-fiction writer, poet, playwright and activist. His many books include three novels, a collection of short stories, four volumes of poetry, a biography, a book of interviews with gay men and women, a book of plays, and a translation into English of Indian transgender (hijra) activist Laxmi’s autobiography. He regards himself as an immigrant by default because he writes in English in a country that has 30 native languages. And he regards himself as a refugee because, as a gay man, he is, after all, a criminal in his own land, in search of asylum. When in India, Rao lives in the cities of Bombay and Poona where he teaches.

The lecture is in English, and it is presented by the magazine MÄNNER (m-maenner.de).