Bangalore: Section 377 continues to be a nightmare for people of alternative sexual groups in Bangalore. Now a young IT engineer has been booked under the law, following a complaint lodged by his wife. Prior to this a doctor, who reportedly had consensual sex with a man, was charged with indulging in homosexual acts. The doctor was being blackmailed by the said man and his friends and had lodged a complaint with the police seeking action against blackmailing and extortion.
In this case, the wife of a techie employed with a big software company in Bangalore, filmed her husband’s sexual encounters with men with a spy cam and went to the police to lodge a complaint against him. Acting on the complaint made the wife, who is a dentist, the police arrested the man not under adultery laws, but under Section 377. The wife also named her in-laws in the complaint, alleging that they must have known about their son’s sexual orientation, yet got him married to her.
The wife told the Bangalore Mirror that she was suspicious of her husband’s orientation right from the beginning of their marriage as she has spotted pink lip gloss in her husband’s possession, his affinity for what she called underwear with ‘girly prints’ and effeminate nature.
Sandeep Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) told media, “We arrested the techie soon after his wife tendered a complaint, with proof. The techie’s parents have been booked for cheating the victim, but these allegations have to be fully proved before we can arrest them.” The police insist they were just doing their job and had to take action since the wife had shown video proof of the husband having sex with men.
The Bangalore Mirror report goes to great lengths to give out the identity of the husband. Though they have changed his name (claiming that it would protect his identity), they have mentioned where he works and which department, they have mentioned his birth place and where he grew up. In fact, they have provided so many hints as to who he is that anyone working in the same company could trace him in a jiffy.
The report also talks about the husband’s ‘womanish traits’. The wife told the paper, “His mannerisms and interests were also feminine.”
She told the media, “Every morning, he would get up, use a face pack, and have a long shower. He would then go straight into his parents’ room and sit down at his mother’s make-up table. After applying a liberal coat of foundation and some other cosmetics, he would finish off with a touch of pink lip-gloss and only then leave the room.” The wife also insists her husband loved the colour pink a tad too much and even exchanged a blue colour vase that she once bought for a pink one.
Dr Lisa also told the Mirror, that her neighbours told her that,”John was constantly bringing male friends home.” She adds, “He told me he had brought a friend over to discuss business. When I asked him who the friend was, and why I hadn’t heard of him before, he admitted he had met the man at a bus stop near our house.”
It was the presence of strange men in her home that led to her decision to installing “hidden cameras inside their hall, bedrooms, and kitchen,” notes the report She then left for her maternal home for 10 days. It was when she came back that she saw the footage of “her husband’s homosexual encounters with another man,” points the report, after which she filed the complaint.
Naturally the arrest has sparked online criticism. On Facebook page users pointed out how such an arrest was wrong. One person wrote, “Arrested for being gay? That’s crazy and not humane. The wife should have just divorced him, not pressed charges. What a waste of police work!”
Another user wrote, “Bravo Bravo! Arresting an innocent man when we have rapists tormenting the city.” Some pointed out that the law was wrong to book a man for being gay and at the most he should be arrested for cheating and infidelity and not his sexuality.
The dubious nature of using Section 377 to arrest anyone, apart, the way the Bangalore Mirror report has been framed and worded is also cause for serious concern. While it is true that the wife has reasons to be devastated, the report heavily relies on her version of the story, without giving voice to the other party. No quote has been taken from either the husband or his family to give the readers their version of the story. In fact the tone of the story is deeply sympathetic to the wife to the point of villainisng the husband’s sexual orientation. For example, this sentence: “On the night of her wedding, Dr Lisa accompanied her husband to his family home in Kochuveli, Thiruvananthapuram, where it was customary for her to spend 10 days. She was certainly not prepared for what she experienced there, however.”
Or this: “It was only after John’s transfer from the Mysore branch of Infosys to the Bangalore branch that the couple rented a home together and Dr Lisa began noticing more worrying behaviour.”
In fact, the headline of the copy in the web version reads: “‘Every morning, he put on a face pack…and sat at make-up table.” Obviously, the paper’s emphasis on that bit of the wife’s account is meant to play to the popular perception of effeminate gay men who should be chastised into being ‘manly’.
Following story, a gay rights activist posted on Facebook: “A sad fall out of forced marriages with people of alternate sexuality ! The victim here is not only the gay man but also the woman who was fooled into this marriage! Our patriarchal systems which define how a man should be and what a woman should do to keep the man happy are dated! So much for proponents of Indian culture who do not make an effort to understand sexuality , gender or the fact that we can be happy in more than one way !”
This arrest once again highlights the problem with Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which was upheld by the Supreme Court last year. In 2009, a Delhi High Court judgement had read down the Section to exclude consensual sexual acts, but the SC reversed all of that.
With Section 377 now in place, the techie faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, simply because the law terms his sexual preference ‘unnatural’ under the current law. Based on the report, the man has been unfaithful to his wife and for which she is not wrong to demand compensation and justice, but as the police have chosen to go with Section 377, it is evident that the police chooses to haul him up for being gay.