The reaction to the kiss has been mixed.
MTV India relationship show, The Big F, recently aired a lesbian storyline featuring the first lesbian kiss to air on national television. The show is helping to raise the profile of same sex relationships in a country where homosexual sex is still a criminal offence.
The episode, titled I Kissed A Girl, features young design student, Sharmisha, who is confused about her sexuality and teased by her friends for being single. She meets young model, Madhurima, falls in love and learns to accept her attraction to women.
The Big F Director, Abhijeet Das, told The Asian Age that “The story was fictional but was inspired by many people that my team and I have met. We wanted to show the truth and it was done very simply. We did not want to pass any judgment in the end and wanted to let the youngsters decide.”
Das said that the reaction to the kiss has been mixed. “There were two kinds of people who were commenting on YouTube —the homophobes who were not so happy with the content and others who looked at the move as a progressive one.”
MTV broadcasted the content even though they risked a backlash from fans and penalties from the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council.
Just last month, the BCCC issued a notice to the Star Channel for “denigrating women” in a June episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
The series 5 episode featured bisexual character, Callie, telling Mark that she’d had sex with a woman the night before but couldn’t go down on her. After receiving a complaint from the Ministry Of Information And Broadcasting, the BCCC deemed the scenes “explicit and objectionable.”
In conservative India, sexuality is rarely talked about and homophobia is common place. In order to avoid penalties from the BCCC, Television stations heavily censor and edit international shows.
Homosexuality is illegal in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1866 and British rule. In 2009 the Delhi High Court legalised homosexuality between consenting adults, deeming Section 377 unconstitutional. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned this decision, forcing gay people back into the closet.
LGBT activists and supporters use television and advertising to push back against homophobia and increase the visibility of India’s estimated 2.5 million gay people.
Earlier this year, an Anouk fashion brand ad featuring a lesbian couple preparing to come out to the parents, went viral on social media. This depiction of a loving relationship was a deliberate attempt to break stereotypes about lesbians. It contrasts sharply with a 2013 ad for Fastrack fashion label, which shows two women coming out of a pink closet after appearing to have enjoyed a sexual encounter.
There are new signs that the push for visibility is working. Ruling party Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, recently said of the Supreme Court decision, “I think the judgment was not correct and, probably at some stage, they may have to reconsider.”
“When you have millions of people involved in this you can’t nudge them off.”