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Can the Subaltern Sex Speak?

Queering the Narrative

This article attempts to show that far from the right wing claim that homosexuality and other sexual behaviours not adhering to social norms are "Western imports," ancient and medieval texts clearly show examples of not just such practices but even examples of tolerance and celebration of the same.

We are living in turbulent times. The advent of a government having close links with the Sangh Parivar has reinvigorated the politics of Hindutva and the project of Hindu Rashtra. In such an atmosphere of vicious communal hatred and false propaganda like the mythical “Love Jihad,” there is a growing focus on the effects on the “subaltern” sexes/genders, women and LGBTQIA (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) communities to be specific. The number of protests against such discriminations based on misrepresentation of history and distortion of science is also on the rise.

For instance, there was widespread anger against a court judgment regarding reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Recently, Hindu right wing activists and other religious fundamentalists were united in their condemnation of the Kiss of Love protest (Bedi 2011). It was interesting to note how same sex couples used the opportunity to assert their right to sexual expression through this politicised act. In this context, this article sets out to examine whether or not heterosexuality and monogamous marriage is the only form of relation that existed in the past in “India.” As we will find, contrary to the claim of many, homosexuality was not a “Western” import.

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