With the Supreme Court refusing Tuesday to review its judgment overturning a Delhi High Court order decriminalising consensual gay sex three months before the general elections and the speculation that the BJP, which has taken a stand against homosexuality, might form the next government have sent the rights activists into a tizzy.
As they prepare to file a curative petition, most feel repeal of Section 377 should be the ultimate goal and a hostile government at the Centre would only make the task more difficult. The 50 million-strong LGBT community is ready to flex its muscle as voters to get around the political opposition.
“The BJP has made it clear homosexuality is immoral and unnatural. It is scary to think what will happen if it is a BJP-led government. Now that there is a law against child sex abuse and a strong rape law, Section 377 should go but for that we need Parliament support. What will happen in case of a government change, nobody knows. It is just bad timing,” says Anjali Gopalan of Naz Foundation, a petitioner in the case.
In the last month-and-a-half, says activist Ashok Row Kavi of Humsafar Trust, the community has mobilised itself, had regular meetings and even reached out to legislators.
Many have responded positively, including some BJP leaders who are yet not ready to come out in the open. “There are 45 million MSM, some 2 million transgenders and also families of gay people — we are a considerable vote bank and we mean to exert. We will simply tell the BJP that if the party sticks to its stand, we will vote for the AAP or the Congress,” Kavi says.
“We will file a curative petition. In the long term we are working with lawmakers and potential lawmakers to see if it is possible to get Parliament to repeal Section 377,” said Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective who represents gay rights organisations.
The original decision not to push for a repeal had stemmed from a realisation that there was at that point no other law to deal with paedophillia. However, India has since enacted Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012.
Despite the obvious disappointment, protests Tuesday were muted. That, activists say, was because the last 45 days have seen the issue receive a lot of support, some from unexpected quarters.
“We received support from the government to a host of people’s movements, retired judges and the media. This has given us the confidence that the effect of this law can be blunted by social support structures and our focus would be to strengthen these structures. The legal fight, of course, will go on,” says activist Gautam Bhan of Voices Against 377, another petitioner in the case.