It was in the 1990s when filmmaker and theatre personality Chitra Palekar’s daughter told her she was a lesbian. Surprised that her daughter hid her identity for four to five years before confiding, Palekar started researching about homosexuality only to realise that ignorance reigned over parents when it came to Section 377, and how its illegality posed a major hurdle in its acceptance.
“This verdict makes way for the disappearance of the unjust stigma and prejudice in the society against LGBTQI persons and their families… By decriminalising Section 377, the justices have given our children and the LGBTQI community, the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution,” Palekar, one of the petitioners in the SC against Section 377, said on Thursday.
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While her daughter, now in her 40s, lives in Australia with her partner, Palekar continued her fight for homosexuals in India.
For parents, the Supreme Court decision is set to pave the way for their children being accepted society. Activist and filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, founder of Sweekar, a peer parent support group for LGBTQ children, said that Thursday’s verdict will make parents more confident. “Until now, gay sex was a crime. Several parents found it difficult to openly accept their children in front of the society. This is just the beginning, we also need to fight for right to marriage for homosexuals.”
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Padma Iyer (60), whose son Harish Iyer is gay, said she wanted to keep his identity under wraps and sent him abroad 15 years ago when he came out . “It was not overnight that I accepted it. It took me a lot of time, I knew my family would not accept him,” Iyer added.
But Harish persisted. “So many children from the LGBTQ community now ask me for advise on how to come out to their parents. The verdict has somewhat removed this roadblock,” said Padma.
Bandra-based Pradeep Divgekar, whose younger son is gay, said he has met several parents who were closeted and reluctant. He has counseled mothers that homosexuality is not something their child got by choice, he added. “It is no more a crime, no more a social stigma, what will hold parents back? We expect more children to come out in the open, and counselling parents will be a major component now.”