Decriminalising Gay Sex: ‘Today, we have got rid of the fear… but don’t think our fight is over’https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/decriminalising-gay-sex-today-we-have-got-rid-of-the-fear-but-dont-think-our-fight-is-over-5343939/

Decriminalising Gay Sex: ‘Today, we have got rid of the fear… but don’t think our fight is over’

Founder of Lakshya Trust and India’s only openly gay prince, Manvendrasinh Gohil, too was a part of the celebration that burst after the Supreme Court announced its historic verdict decriminalising gay sex.

Gohil and LGBT activists celebrate in Vadodara. (Express photo by Bhupendra Rana)

Grooving to dance numbers, members of the LGBTQ community could not stop congratulating each other as tears rolled down their eyes and their fearless laughter filled the air. Vidya, a stand-up comic artist, spoke of how her friends celebrated their “first legal kiss”. “Despite the fact that they were together, there was a constant fear. Today is the end to it,” she quipped.

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Founder of Lakshya Trust and India’s only openly gay prince, Manvendrasinh Gohil, too was a part of the celebration that burst after the Supreme Court announced its historic verdict decriminalising gay sex. “It’s a moment of truth,” remarked Gohil. “The apex court has proved that humanity still exists in the society. This decision for us means a sense of freedom, getting our rights. The only way forward for the country is through exercising human rights and this is a step towards it,” he added.

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The prince of Rajpipla was married to the princess of Jhabua in 1991, but soon after a year of their marriage, the couple separated, citing reasons of non-consummation. And it was in 2002, when his parents first came to know about his sexual orientation and demanded that it should be kept a secret. But within four years, the crown prince of the oldest royalties in India openly came out of the closet in an interview to a vernacular daily. It led to a uproar in Rajpipla, with his family publicly notifying of disowning him and disinheriting him from the ancestral property.

“In those years I was leading a dual life of hypocrisy — gay in private and straight in public. Fighting constantly with the idea of putting forth dual sexual orientations, my life was full of lies and it was the most suffocating phase of my life. A lot has changed since then, a lot is yet to change. That was a completely different time. There weren’t as many discussions as today. There weren’t as many movements as today. Looking back at those times, I had faced social non-acceptance; my effigies were burnt, my family was not ready to approve of it, but it never weighed down me. I don’t blame my parents, I dont blame anybody because what they did then and thought then was right on their part, and in all probability I would have done pretty much the same because that’s what the society makes us think,” he said amid the revelry.

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“But today my family is proud of me and my decision. No matter what, I was always confident of what I sought in life and no criticism ever pulled me down. Today, along with me a wider and larger part of the community will celebrate this confidence with the Supreme Court’s verdict. What the community needs today is more allies. Allies have kept me stronger throughout be it here in India or the West. For more people to come out, we need parents to be educated about sexual orientations and that will ultimately bring about a change in the society,” he added.

Terming the verdict a moment of euphoria, Dhaval Shah, a design strategist who is also a LGBTQ activist since 2000, said, “We were expecting this decision… After this historic decision, now the fight will be for civil rights, the right to marriage, the right to adopt a child, which will give us a holistic constitutional validation.”

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Dhaval met his partner when he organised a pride parade in Ahmedabab in 2013. “In my five year of relationship, there have been times when we were worried about how do we conduct ourselves in the public, there was a constant fear of police backlash. Today, we have gotten rid of that fear. I had been very privileged that my family had no issues accepting my sexual orientation. But for many others the decision to come out isn’t easy. But after today they can at least initiate a dialogue. They can take a step forward,” he said.

Co-founder of QueerAbad, an online platform for the Ahmedabad’s LGBTQ community, Shamini Kothari believes that the Supreme Court’s decision today has a symbolic value and its a very first step towards a long path that is yet to be taken. “For once, we know now that the police can not use the Section 377 anymore, but at the societal front, the path is pretty long and the struggle is still on. It is one of the many ways to bring about a change. It would be a pity if we think that this is it and we can continue our lives and not fight back anymore. The trans bill is still hanging in the air, NALSA needs to be implemented and overall legal systems are having a crackdown on dissent in the country, these are all queer issues. Everybody’s fight is our fight. Dont think your fight is over,” said Shamini, who met her partner, Anahita Sarabhai, daughter of Mallika Sarabhai and founder of QueerAbad, during a pride parade in the city.