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The Arguments Favouring Section 377 Are Just A Load Of Ugh

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The hearings on Section 377 concluded on Tuesday, and the Supreme Court has reserved its judgment until further notice. While we wait for the decision, it’s a great time to take stock of everything that’s happened.

We had 10 top advocates testify against the unjust law that would sentence a person to life imprisonment, simply because of their sexual orientation. To this writer, it was all very sombre . Until I heard the defense arguments.

If the counsel for any of the petitioners in the case of Suresh Kumar Koushal vs Naz Foundation argued brilliantly, then the respondents’ counsel, in comparison, were pretty embarrassing.

I’ve spent a week reading a trashy Sidney Sheldon novel about a criminal lawyer who saved the skins of many awful people, and she does it with some astounding arguments. Maybe that’s why I thought Koushal’s lawyers might present strong reasons to retain Section 377. But all I got was this:

Very Questionable ‘Evidence’

Advocate Manoj George tries submitting, not once, but twice, material to suggest that ‘the gays’ are the scourge of our society. According to Bar and Bench’s live updates on Twitter, he first tried to show the nine-judge bench some stuff from the interwebz that would convince them to jail all of us debauched and immoral freakazoids.

Justice Chandrachud replied: “The second website you have referred to is obviously a hate website. Look at its name.”

Not to be deterred, George tried his next line of attack. Some ‘scientific’ research published by a Washington-based organisation, that claims homosexuality isn’t innate, but a pervert’s choice.

Sorry, man, what did you say? I couldn’t hear you over my boombox that’s blasting Gaga’s “Born This Way”.

But wait, there’s more. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tried to tear into Ashok Desai (appearing for the petitioners) when he submitted to the court two books (“I Am Divine” by Devdutt Pattanaik, and “Same Sex Love in India” by Ruth Vanita). Get this, he called the books “obscene” and “scandalous”, and then dropped a loaded comment about how people perceive things according to their orientation.

‘Just Pack Up Your AIDS In A Suitcase And Fuck Off To Mardi Gras’

I’m prone to quoting Hannah Gadsby a lot these days. Sue me, lol. But that’s pretty much where the next arguments lead to.

Advocate K. S. Radhakrishnan told the court that Section 377 a much needed bastion against HIV/AIDS in India. He brought to the court a report that claimed homosexuality had spread AIDS all over the USA.

Here’s what international organisation AVERT has to say about that: “Homophobia continues to be a major barrier to ending the global AIDS epidemic.”
In fact, the whole reason the Naz Foundation first petitioned against Section 377 in 2001 was because it interfered with HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment!

Still, Radhakrishnan said that, without the statute, “India will lose nobility, character, virtuousness.”

The judges weren’t very convinced.

Welcome To Lawlessness

When it was advocate Harshvir Pratap Sharma’s turn, he churned out perhaps the most bizarre argument of all time. According to Bar and Bench’s updates, he said rapes have increased after live-in relationships were recognised.

Just a moment of silence, as we mourn the death of logic here.

Speaking of live-ins, the respondents’ lawyers quickly got to how ‘the gays’ are destroying The Great Indian Family. You know, the backbone of heteronormativity? Because God forbid a situation where a child must undergo the ‘trauma’ of being raised by two loving mums!

Words With Friends

In the days prior, advocate Menaka Guruswamy asked the court to consider that the term “sex” should include “sexual orientation” too. Manoj George insisted that a new definition could not be imported into Section 377. But Justice Rohinton Nariman had a totally different take. He spoke about the Yogyakarta principles, and that “sex” had been expanded to include trans people in NALSA judgment.

Mehta also had some feelings about this, saying that trans issue were being brought in unnecessarily. He pointed to the text of Section 377, saying “carnal” does not mean “sexual”. In the same vein, he argued that the petitioners’ arguments were based on too wide reading of Fundamental Rights, and were therefore violating Directive Principles of State Policy.

In comparison, Radhakrishnan’s defense was pretty Switzerlandy. According to him, we’ve been reading Section 377 all wrong this whole time, because ain’t nobody got problems with gay people, they just shouldn’t be having any sexy times, cause like society will burn to the ground or whatever. But advocate Arvind Datar had already argued otherwise, saying it was the basis for blackmail, extortion and all kinds of harassment against LGBTQ people.

Miniscule Minority

Okay, here we go again. Sharma suggested to the court that you can’t justify scrapping a law that affects only a few people. And the analogy he used had me choking on my damn rainbow velvet cake. He asked the court if it would consider abolishing the police, because of corruption inside the institution?

He’s falling back on his previous sentiment that even Fundamental Rights are subject to public health, morality and decency.

In his turn, Mehta suggested that all of us gays and activists are just using ‘consensual same-sex relations between adults’ as a guise for incest, bestiality, or Sapinda (marriage between cousins in the Hindu community).

He also tried to dehumanise us by saying homosexuality was only seen in lower classes of animals, and that since he represented 95% of the population (i.e. The Straights), we simply didn’t matter.

He also concluded with this incredibly impressive sentiment: “No one has a right to commit a crime.”

To that, I have only one response. Which I’m gonna steal from Sahil Rizwan on Twitter:

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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