The date September 6, 2018 will go down in the pages of LGBT history in India. Today, the Supreme Court of India scrapped the British era Section 377 of the Indian penal code that criminalised gay sex.
Yesterday, when I was writing the headline for my channel to convey that the top court was expected to give a crucial verdict, I began by saying “Big day for LGBT community tomorrow, Supreme Court to give its verdict on the constitutional validity of Section 377 that criminalises gay sex”.
An anchor friend who was sitting beside me said “no, don’t write gay sex, write homosexuality”. I quickly hit back saying “technically it’s more about gay sex, you can be homosexual and like the person of the same gender, as long as you don’t have sex, it’s not criminal. You can have a girlfriend if you want, you just can’t have sex, the sex is a problem” I said. She just smiled awkwardly.
Here is the text explaining section 377: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
In 2009, when the High court was hearing arguments against scrapping the draconian section, one of the arguments put forth was that only 0.3 per cent of the population is gay and that the rights of 99% cannot be compromised for a few. But for a country with an over billion population, 0.3 per cent is at least 3 million people. That’s not a ‘few’ people.
But that’s the hypocrisy that exists in societies that look down upon homosexuality, even if they know you are gay, they pretend like you don’t exist. They would rather prefer that you suppressed your feelings and married somebody from the opposite gender. And had babies. Obviously.
“You know, I don’t get this ‘it is against the social order’ argument,” another anchor on my channel told me as we spoke about the issue.
“These people who are against gay sex say that the natural order is for a man and woman to have babies. So I asked one of them, ‘what about those straight couples who don’t want to have babies, I have been married for several years and me and my husband don’t want to have kids, so do you think people like me should be criminalised? For not wanting to have babies?'”.
“You told somebody that?”, I asked, thinking of it as a very cool thing to tell someone since it involved her revealing a personal choice (not wanting to have kids) to someone else.
People from the LGBT community have been threatened, abused, humiliated because of the Section 377. A gay couple in Delhi were blackmailed by the police after they found them kissing in a car. The cops pulled up the young men and threatened to out them in front of their parents if they didn’t pay up Rs 50,000. That’s about 700 U.S dollars. They were so scared, they paid up.
When the Supreme Court read out its judgement, pronouncing that the morality of the majority cannot violate the rights of an individual, there were tears of joy. Gay men and women across the country had their eyes on the judiciary and the judges lived up to their expectations.
“Though India received independence long back, we got ours today,” said Joyita Mondal, a transgender judge in Kolkata to the Indian Express.
Right after the verdict came out, one of our reporters who was standing outside the court, asked a young LGBT activist, who was on the phone with someone, if he could give a live opinion on the historic decision.
“I was on the phone with my boyfriend. We are so happy. We can finally be free. I would like to share a personal story, my boyfriend was honeytrapped, duped and even raped and he couldn’t go to the cops because he was afraid that the cops might act against him instead. We no longer have to live in such fear”
I don’t remember it verbatim, but this is loosely what he said. The man was overwhelmed with emotion as he spoke.
When you are young, you have enough insecurities and personal battles to fight and to know that having sex with someone you love can possibly land you in jail, that’s just an unexplainable travesty of justice.
Today, the judiciary of India restored our faith in the system. Pride parades were taken out and rainbows descended on our streets today.
Today is a day to rejoice for our LGBT community. And to celebrate the power of our judiciary, it has brought us much pride. Pun intended.