A fantastic verdict. Decriminalising homosexuality is a crucial step that gives the right to live without fear and harassment,” says Dr Shalmalee Palekar, 46, who teaches post-colonial literature at University of Western Australia.
Daughter of actor Amol Palekar and Chitra Palekar, a filmmaker, Shalmalee came out after graduating from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai. “Decriminalisation is a crucial step in acknowledging the full humanity, dignity and equality of the LGBTQI people and the right to live without fear, violence and harassment,” added Shalmalee in an email interview.
Shalmalee, who is a published poet and performs with Funkier than Alice, a collective of three women and a cello, says the Supreme Court judgement won’t change attitudes and beliefs overnight, but will certainly help usher further progressive change.
“Achieving full legal rights and recognitions is the next step. No doubt this will take time, patience and lots more hard work. So, let’s take the time to rejoice and express a heartfelt thank you to all the tireless activists, lawyers and petitioners, everyone who has been fighting the good fight. Now, the way forward must continue,” she said.
Chitra, who was among the group of parents that had petitioned the court and made it a mission to spread awareness about the LGBTQI rights, is ecstatic. “The verdict and the beautiful language used has brought tears of joy to my eyes. The entire process has been so challenging, especially because of the waiting period. From disappointment to joy, the journey has been a tumultuous one. This morning, too, before the court could announce the judgement, I was tense. But, come what may, the fight has to continue,” says the filmmaker, who coordinated with Humsafar Trust, Rotary Clubs, Maharashtrian Mandals, schoolmates and several organisations to talk about her daughter’s story, the prejudices and why it was important to read down Section 377.
“I still have to read the judgement and have managed to speak a bit to my daughter. What is so heartening is that all the judges have concurred and said that, except for the difference in sexuality, people are the same and should be accepted for what they are,” she said.
The veteran actor, Amol Palekar, recalled the time when he made the Marathi and English film Thaang (Quest) in 2006. The script was written by his wife, Sandhya Gokhale, and is about a woman who discovers that her husband is homosexual. “What I feel sad about is that such a lot of time has been wasted. The Delhi HC had decriminalised same-sex relationships in 2009 and the SC had reversed that. Today’s ruling is a welcome one. Whether my daughter is a lesbian or not is not the issue at all. I think it is up to all of us — progressive, educated and cultured people — to respect individual freedom so that we can ensure that this judgement moves forward. Political will also needs to push the SC judgement forward,” he said.
For Gokhale, also a lawyer, the verdict felt like one has “come back into the sunshine’. “I believe that the judges have been progressive. We have been witness to Shalmalee’s relationship with her partner which has been such a beautiful one,” Gokhale said.