The Supreme Court in its landmark judgement on September 6 partially struck down the archaic section 377 of IPC, which criminalised homosexuality.
Although it’s a commendable and laudable effort on the part of our judiciary, the question of acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community still bothers a lot of people. Yes, the law will no longer punish them for being a certain kind but what about the society? Will, they also not punish them? Will parents and families stop disowning and severing their ties with their children if they were ever to come out? Will the society realise that the people of LGBTQ+ community are also humans?
Many people took to the streets at some places to celebrate the landmark judgment, but the community is still fighting for being accepted and integrated into the society. As Ritu Dalmia wrote, “I wanted to be known for what I do, not who I sleep with.” I thought will the judgment help in ending the long battle against homophobia? I guess only time will tell.
Changing the attitudes of the people is a long process. Accepting homosexuality as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ will take years. People will have to stop assuming that being ‘straight’ is the default sexual orientation and will have to see homosexuality as a ‘natural’ phenomenon. This was beautifully shown in the movie, Love, Simon. In one of the scenes, the protagonist questions the notion of ‘coming out’ as it is normally assumed that people are straight. He imagines his friends coming out to their parents for being straight which made me question why do we assume? Assume that ‘being straight’ is the convention.
Although section 377 has been struck down, our existing personal laws do need to undergo amendments to give the lives of the people from the LGBTQ+ some meaning. It needs to recognise marriage between people from various sexes and further make violence stemming from homophobia a punishable offence. If history indeed owes an apology to the LGBT community as noted by Justice Indu Malhotra, one of the judges who passed the judgement, then there should be a separate Act for recognising the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has twice, 2015 and 2016, tried to ‘Anti-discriminatory and Equality bill’ as a private member’s bill to give constitutional recognition to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, on both the occassions it was voted out. BJP’s Nishikant Dubey while explaining why the bill was voted out contended that the bill was against the 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court. Now, since the tables have turned, the burden of bringing everyone under the umbrella of equality lies on the shoulders of the legislature, particularly the ruling government since they are in the majority in the Parliament.
The CJI, in his judgement, wrote, “Section 377 IPC does not meet the criteria of proportionality and is in violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression including the right to choose a sexual partner.”
While I completely agree with the statement, I strongly feel that the LGBTQ people also have the right to love. When it comes to having the right to love others, it’s not just limited to physical acts of affection or sexual acts. Love goes much beyond that.