Every day, the sun rises in the sky and fulfills its promise of bringing to me a beautiful, new day. Today morning, I was particularly excited. It was 11.12.13 – an iconic date even more special because today was the day when the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was coming out. Like many, I was hopeful that the verdict would validate the landmark Delhi High Court judgment of 2009 and the LGBT community would finally heave a sigh of relief amidst a lot of celebrations. What a fool I was!
I checked my Twitter account – a lot of tweets had already started to trickle and with each tweet that I read, my heart just sank deeper and deeper. The verdict was completely contrary to what I had hoped for. I was disappointed. I was angry. I couldn't believe that the Supreme Court had just stripped 2.5 million people off their basic rights to freedom and equality. They may be a minority in a country that boasts of having a population exceeding one billion but 2.5 million is not really a small number. Re-criminalizing homosexuality has just set the gay movement in India behind by several decades. It just didn't seem fair to me!
Thankfully, a lot of people echoed my sentiments. I was relieved to know that I was not the only one who was so outraged. What angered me immensely was some of the arguments that had been raised. I refuse to believe that decriminalizing homosexuality will increase cases of HIV and cancer. I also do not accept the argument that homosexuality is unnatural. It is definitely not a disease and for all those who think it is, they should read the latest manuals of the WHO or the APA.
One person asked me why I care so much about gay rights. I would like to point out that it is not a question of my sexual orientation. The question is about equality. What two consenting adults choose to do in the private space of their bedrooms should be nobody’s business. It is called “private” for a reason. It angers me to think that homosexuals are considered, according to the verdict, even bigger offenders than rapists – after all if you rape someone, you get sentenced to jail for seven years but if you are a homosexual, you can be imprisoned for life. Where is justice in this country? Why is someone being denied rights on the basis of their sexual orientation? By re-criminalizing homosexuality we are denying an entire community their identity.
If the Supreme Court believes that social acceptance is more important than legal acceptance, I would like to know what their take is on discrimination against rape-victims inflicted by society. The court may punish the offender but society still antagonizes the victim on several levels. Why are religious sentiments suddenly so important in a secular nation? Once upon a time, religion advocated evils like caste, sati and raised movements against education – why are we listening to these leaders? Choosing to see homosexuality as unnatural and a criminal offence will only encourage homosexuals to live a life of deceit as they will be too scared to come out of the closet.
Section 377 was instituted by the British but, with changing times, Britain has not only legalized homosexuality but also gay marriages. Why are we, then, moving back in time? Besides, if one reads Section 377 closely, according to that, even oral sex between a man and a woman is illegal. Since when does the Parliament regulate acts in the bedroom?
We all have the right to love and live a life of dignity. Do not deny these basic human rights to the LGBT community. The verdict is definitely a major setback but the fight must still continue. I appeal to all those people reading this to speak up for the LGBT community and show your support. It does not matter if you are gay or straight. The more the number of voices that speak out, the more will be the pressure on the Parliament to take up this issue. Hopefully, justice will not be denied even though it has definitely been delayed.