The Supreme Court’s watershed ruling on Thursday decriminalising homosexuality has been a cause for celebrations around the country, especially among a vast array of queer groups who have been waging a long fight. In Kerala too, on Thursday evening, at specific places in Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, LGBT activists and members made merry, distributed sweets and confidently asserted that they had finally found freedom at last.
Queerala, which initially began as a support system for members of the LGBTIQ+ community operating through informal channels, is today a prominent voice for the marginalised in Kerala. The state was the first in the country to implement a progressive transgender policy by the previous Congress-led administration. However, a vast array of conservative sections and influential religious groups have ensured that conversations about queer identity are still not brimming to the surface as they ought not to.
Rajashree R, who identifies as a Malayali bisexual woman, is a board member at Queerala and reacts with a mix of optimism and caution to the partial takedown of the colonial Section 377 of the IPC by the top court.
“I am very happy of course. At the same time, I know legal change without social change isn’t very effective. For instance, while everyone was busy celebrating, I was on phone with a lesbian woman from Kollam whose partner is locked up by her parents in their house in Trivandrum. I don’t know if this change in law alone would be enough to convince their parents to let them live their lives happily,” Rajashree told indianexpress.com.
But she adds, “At the same time, I see many coming-out posts by some of my friends who are from relatively privileged backgrounds. This ruling has actually given them the confidence to come out to the world and be comfortable with their identities.”
There are no actual statistics but activists have repeatedly pointed to a large number of cases of suicides and self-harm taking place in Kerala on a daily basis which are never reported. But, they are very often intertwined with the discrimination meted out to the individuals by their families and the society at large. The ruling on Thursday is believed to end this discrimination and help the society better understand the Queer identity.
“[I am] remembering all my friends who killed themselves because of homophobic people in their lives. At that time, the reason for their deaths was and still remains ‘unknown’ to the world. This does not mean that they were ‘callous’ or they ‘died over nothing’,” says Rajashree.
“They had a reason, the law has acknowledged it and it is time that people acknowledge it too. If not, more precious lives will be lost,” she adds.
The next logical step that the judiciary must take, she says, is to examine the marriage and adoption laws for members of the community. Implementing the transgender policy in Kerala should also be the priority, she says.