Although Indian law criminalises homosexuality (or rather, any form of intercourse other than penile-vaginal sex, thereby making, anal -- and even oral -- sex illegal), India has had a long history of acceptance. In fact, the specific law, Article 377, was introduced by the British based on victorian concepts of morality in 1860. Before this, homosexuality -- though perhaps not explicitly defined in terms correlating to today’s terminology of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender -- was widespread, and was widely accepted in India.

In Ancient India, homosexuality was recognised as the third gender (tritya prakriti). In the medieval era, castrated eunuchs were considered the most reputable, trustworthy servants. A survey of rural India by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that "male to male sex is not uncommon", with a higher percentage of men reporting male to male sex than sex with sex workers. Several of these men probably will not identify themselves as “gay” -- with the term having connotations to today’s social constructs.

Interestingly, the 1860 anti-sodomy law was an improvement over the earlier punishment for homosexuality in Britain -- death by hanging. It was however, a step back for India, which had never put a label on or criminalised homosexuality.

Britain, and a host of other countries, have since abolished anti-sodomy laws. India, however, still clings on to it. The defence for doing so is based on a moral argument -- homosexuality is “unnatural”, it is an import of western civilization into Indian culture. The truth, ironically, is that homosexuality itself is not the import -- the law that we are using to criminalise it, is.

The video below, shot by the wonderful folk at SORTEDD, provides an insight into the level of ignorance regarding homosexuality amongst Indians today.