With the Delhi High Court passing a verdict to decriminalise homosexuality. The LGBTI (Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual,Transgender and Inter-sex) community at large is jubilant over the ruling.
Section 377 has been used to criminalise homosexuals in India,and by removing consenting adults from its purview,the Delhi High Court has made a powerful statement on the importance of respecting basic human rights of queer people in India, says Vikram,a popular voice from the Queer Media Collective. Human rights activist and lawyer Alok Gupta says this decision by Delhi High Court has also corrected a historical injustice. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was imposed by the British on the historically tolerant attitudes to sexuality that has always existed in India. The law has continued to exist in India long after the British changed their laws in the UK, he explains.
Ashok Row Kavi,one of the earliest out gay men and the founder of Humsafar Trust,was on a flight from Bangkok where he attended a WHO conference yesterday. Kavi was delightedly says,While I see a relaxation on violence and more services for STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections),I still think the social stigma will remain, says Kavi.
Section 377 was drafted by Lord Macaulay in 1860 under the section of Unnatural Offences. This judgment is against an alien law imposed on Indian culture, says a gay rights lawyer Arvind Narain. He explains that the demand is to have a reading down of the law so that it protects those exposed to rape and pedophilia.
Dr Kalpana Dixit,a parent of a queer woman,says,The law should have been read down a long time ago,given that who you love is natural and should not be criminalised. I do feel that this change in law will affect the way gays,lesbians and transgender people are treated in society. I am happy not just for my daughter but for everyone who has had to suffer under the injustice of this law.
Moving from the human rights angle to the health issue,activists working in the health and HIV sector believe that the reading down of
Section 377 will impact people who are in the closet and people who have been afraid to express their homosexuality. Nitin Karani of the Humsafar Trust believes,Now gays and MSM (men who have sex with men) who need to speak about and seek treatment for health issues will feel free to access counselors and health practitioners easily. The medical community will not feel under threat any more.
Karani also believes that it will give LGBTIs more confidence to come out to their loved ones since this law is often used to force them into marriage,which we know is an injustice to both the queer person getting married against his/her will and the heterosexual who is probably not even aware of their partners sexual orientation.
The decision is bound to get opposition,but this in itself is a very big step, says Meenakshi,a queer rights activist and feminist.