Fifteen years ago Naz Foundation, an NGO that works on HIV/AIDS and sexual health, filed a petition to decriminalize homosexuality.The case will come to its legal close on Feb 2, 2016, during a curative petition hearing at the Supreme Court. It took nearly a decade after it was first filed, for the petition to culminate in the historic ruling by the Delhi High Court. It declared that homosexuality was not a crime.
But the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code reared its ugly head again in 2013 when the apex court decided to criminalize same-sex sexual activity between two consenting adults again.
Scheduled for today, the petition is the last chance to ensure that the nation makes it right for its queer population in the spirit of freedom, equality and justice that India holds tightly on to as per the Constitution.
A large number of people famously misconceived as a ‘miniscule minority‘ wait in anticipation today. But the queer community in India will not be put down. Solidarity meetings and candlelight vigils were held in various parts of the country prior to the hearing:
Candle Light Vigil in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Guwahati and Kolkata planning for 31st Jan – 1st Feb, ahead of Curative Petition hearing on 2nd Feb. Now is the time to show, we are no miniscule minority. Mumbai : Marine Drive, January 31, 2016, 5:00 pm Delhi : Jantar Mantar, January 31, 2016, 1:00 pm Kolkata : Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, Feb 1, 2016, 6:00 pm Chennai : Chennai Press Club, Chennai, January 31, 3:30 pm Guwahati : Dighalipukhuri Park Enterance, January 31, 4 PM #LGBTQI #IPC377 #mumbaipride2016 #maankibaat #QUEER #mumbai #india #homosexuality
— Feminism in India (@FeminismInIndia) January 31, 2016
(2) Human rights and privacy aside, 377 contradicts clause on transgender children in the 2015 Transgender bill pic.twitter.com/qTK8QRVqU5
— Makepeace Sitlhou (@makesyoucakes) February 1, 2016
After his bill to decriminalize homosexuality was outrightly rejected by the Indian Parliament last year, here’s what Indian National Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had to say:
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 29, 2016
But it has to be noted that the same society, or rather the same system of authority, that criminalizes homosexuality, is also responsible for ‘protecting’ Indian viewers from seeing representations of same-sex relationships on screen. ‘Aligarh’, a new Indian film with a gay protagonist, got an ‘Adult’ rating. One twitter user had this to say about the head of the censor board:
So according to Nihlaniji, homosexuality in films like Mastizade is ok, but a thought-provoking film @mehtahansal is not watchable?
— ketan mistry (@ketanTM) January 30, 2016
Even as strong messages of support come pouring in, the anti-equality camp got pretty expressive online as well. Subramanian Swamy, a former Union Minister, with a particularly homophobic track record (he actually said “Homos are genetically handicapped“) tweeted this:
On Section 377 IPC , the SC should dismiss the curative petition since no new law point has been made in the pet. after the earlier pet.
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) February 1, 2016
Whatever happens at today’s hearing will be historic. We can only hope that history remembers this as the moment we didn’t squander this most important opportunity. And, if squandered it is, then let history remember a renewed vigour in the fight for justice.
Image Courtesy: Twitter/Gaysi Family.