City’s beautiful LGBT community and others welcomed the Supreme Court’s historic judgment on Thursday decriminalising Section 377 as a victory for dignity, equal rights and a more inclusive society. For Sridhar Rangayan, filmmaker, writer, activist and director of an international queer festival and founding member of The Humsafar Trust, the first gay NGO in India, the judgment is a new beginning for LGBT rights. Rangayan says a new door to dignity and healthy relationships has been opened today with the verdict. “It has to be followed by anti-discriminatory law and marriage rights. Our fight of more than 20 years has yielded results as this judgment will give equal rights and opportunities.”
Dhananjay Chauhan, the first transgender student of Panjab University and LGBT activist, and Kajal Magalmukhi, Director, Mangalmukhi Transgender Welfare Society, have both been involved in various programmes and endeavours to create awareness about the many issues that the community faces and also to sensitise the common people towards their struggles to find place in society. “We are so happy to hear the historic judgment of the SC. It is a day of celebration for the LGBT community. This is a special day for us and our joy knows no bounds. The SC judgment has given value and dignity to our efforts and life. But our fight is not over, we have a long road ahead to get equal rights, education, jobs, dignity and acceptance in society and be part of the mainstream,” said Dhananjay, with Kajal voicing the same sentiments.
Film-maker Ojaswee Sharma, who recently directed Admitted, a biographical docudrama on the life of 45-year-old Dhananjay Chauhan, said: “After the SC’s green (rainbow) flag, it falls strongly on society at large to acknowledge different sexual orientations and gender expressions in order to eliminate stigma and discrimination against all LGBT persons. We hope what will follow is the right to adopt and same-sex marriages.”
Sharma said the idea of the film was to look at the life of Chauhan, who against all odds, aimed at a life of dignity, “not just for herself, but thousands more, who because of their orientation are denied an equal status in society”.
Art, believes painter Balvinder, is a medium of social change, with many artists supporting the LGBT community through their work. The decriminalisation of the “dated” Section 377 by the Supreme Court (SC), a colonial legacy, is a welcome step, said the artist. “Considering natural human behaviour as a crime itself is a crime. The decriminalisation of this Act will go a long way in changing many mindsets and behaviours. However, it is painful to note that what should have been done by the Parliament, long back, the highest court of the country had to do. Kudos to the SC and all those who support this humane cause.”
Theatre actor, director and founder of Alankar, Chakresh Kumar, whose production, Thiru Nangai, looks at the life of a transgender living in a dera for 15 years and the longing for love and acceptance, said the judiciary had finally agreed on a matter that “we as a society have progressively grown to understand and accept conceptually”.
“We have no right to question or judge another’s individuality by bringing ‘integrity’ under scrutiny. We must not compartmentalise by attributing it with words like natural or unnatural. Every being has a right to live on this planet with dignity. Who are we to measure this dignity?” Agrees theatre practitioner Rani Balbir Kaur, “If two people love each other and want to live their life together, regardless of what sex they are, who are we to stop them or create any impediments?”
Here to promote a film, the core of which is love, film actor Abhishek Bachchan was absolutely upbeat about the verdict. “The country has come together to put an end to the archaic law of Section 377. Who are we to tell anyone whom to love and how to love? We are thinking forward.”
Harish Mehla, a human rights lawyer and part of the Chandigarh Creative Cinema Circle, which brings documentaries on social issues to the city, said for him, the SC judgment has put to rest a legal controversy and “a medieval trend” in the 21st century. “With this decision, the court has directed that all bias, prejudice and ostracisation must be put aside. As we celebrate this decision, we as citizens must make sure that this decision is implemented in our society and lives,” Mehla said.