This set of paper includes an article on "Removal of Section 377 was not enough to end discrimination."
In a landmark decision, the supreme court finally struck down a 19th century law criminalising homosexuality in India. But this was not enough to end the discrimination of LGBT in society. Despite the judgment, many members of the community still find it difficult to tell their closest family members or friends for fear of being judged or discriminated against.
The discussion of homosexuality is still a taboo.
It is mentioned only as a joke in cinema or as a slur on playgrounds.
Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact
no liberty without it..
- Frances Wright
What is Section 377?
Section 377 refers to 'unnatural offences' and says whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
Section 377 verdict
On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalising consensual sexual relationships between same-sex adults. The reading down of this 158-year old colonial and controversial provision signalled an end to the legal prejudice faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
The long-pending step to ensure the rights of the LGBTQI+ community was taken by the five-judge constitutional bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra who gave four separate but concurring judgments, bringing to light the struggles and voices of the LGBTQI+ community.
What we won, what remains
It's been two years since gay sex was decriminalized by the Supreme Court but have things really changed?
The months that followed the apex court's historic verdict ushered in a wave of positive changes in favour of the LGBTQ community. Though the road to true inclusivity is long and riddled with potholes, some progress has been made—the community has found representation in mainstream politics and entertainment, corporates have become more inclusive, the government is creating an anti-discrimination framework for transgenders, and more people are coming out in support.
The judges made references to queer literature, and art and talked about the culture of love in society. Most significantly, they recognised that the historical wrongs done to the queer community needed to be atoned for at a policy level. However, a lot needs to be done at the socio-cultural level. The judgement has limitedly helped transgender people and those targeted by the police, but familial and social acceptance is still a pipe dream for many. It continues to be difficult to be open at workplaces and many are still forced into heterosexual marriages or are ostracised.
The battle is only half won. Many individuals within the community are yet to feel confident about their sexuality.Members of the LGBTQ community cannot get their m arriages registered. Subsequently, they are denied the basic rights to nominate their partners in insurances, and other legal documents. They cannot open a joint bank account, or sign a house lease with their partner. Same sex couples also cannot adopt a child under the Surrogacy bill.
The court stuck to its position that it would only deal with the constitutional validity of Section 377. It said it would be enough to ensure that the community leads a life of dignity it deserved, gets equal opportunities to work and also have intimate relationships without being harassed and demeaned. But in real this is not prevailing. The removal of section 377 does not bring more relief as people still make fun of LGBT community.
The recent arguments between Youtubers & Tik-Tokers clearly indicates that what society thinks about the community. The arguments were totally harrasing for LGBT community. They were making fun of whole community.
The fight against the unequality still prevalent regressive mindset remains the core of the battle, said transgender activist Achinta of Kolkata-based youth organisation Prantakatha.
We need more conversations
Things have changed, in the sense that, people are openly accepting of the queer community. Many from the community have come out to their families and in their workplaces. There are certainly more open conversations about the queer community that are happening now. But broadly, when talking about social acceptance and the rights and privileges the community has, I don’t see much of a change. The police has not been sensitised and the government has to do something as per the Supreme Court judgement. Many doctors still consider homosexuality a disease.
We need more conversations around queer identities, who are they and what their lives are like. Even though there is a lot more open conversation, it is in a celebratory sense of the community, especially in mainstream spaces.
The judgement of 6 september 2018 marked a watershed moment in national conversations around queer rights. Massive celebrations took place across the country. Still attitudes and mentalities have to change to accept the distinct identity of individuals and respect them for who they are rather than compelling them to become who they are not.
There are a lot of other rights such as marriage and adoption that come into play. Though it is now legal, there are a lot of miles to cover before it reaches social sanction. The social awareness and discussion needs to continue.
"Equality is not a concept. It's not something we should be striving for. It's a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it. We need equality. Kinda now.”
- Joss Whedon