So, I was returning to Delhi on 11th December, 2013. We were a company of 6 people returning from a friend’s wedding. We were exhausted and trying not to look too tired on reaching the Delhi outskirts as we had offices or classes to attend.
I can still remember the moment so vividly when one of the people got dropped, my friend moved to the front of the car to make himself more comfortable, I did not wish to open my eyes when I heard someone switch on mobile, the twing of a whats app message and my friend announcing:
I am a criminal now!
Was it his announcement or the quietness of the moment or the dramatic mathod of delivery that got to us but something did because the quiet moment changed into one of activity where some laughed as they thought he was joking, someone else wanted to know what did he mean while I for once started checking my mobile hoping to understand what did he mean.
He was speaking about the Indian Supreme court verdict on Section 377. So a quick social media search got me these updates:
#377updates Six things you should know after the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code: [credit – Varta]
a) On December 11, 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377, which means this law is back in force, as it was till before July 2, 2009.
b) Section 377 criminalizes any sexual act that does not involve penile-vaginal penetration. It applies to all people, irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That means straight people are also affected by this law, and not just those who are homosexual, bisexual or transgender in orientation.
c) Section 377 in itself does not mean that you can be arrested for simply being or saying you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Hijra or Kothi. Your freedom of expression is not under threat.
d) Arrest under this law requires medical forensic evidence of specific sexual acts having taken place – oral, anal or other non penile-vaginal sexual acts.
e) You cannot be arrested for being in a declared or undeclared same-sex relationship. Strict material evidence of specific sexual acts will be necessary for arrest.
f) Community, family, workplace or police harassment, blackmail and extortion may take place under threat of Section 377 or even because you appear or are known to be “not straight”. But more than anything else, it is these acts that are illegal and they can be tackled with a dose of courage and sound legal action. If you have concerns around these issues, please send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your confidentiality will be respected.
This is a simplistic analysis of the law and what the Indian Supreme Court decision meant for the LGBTQ community (feel free to read a legal analysis here: http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=3702) but what it doesn’t bring out is that this is possibly one issue that united the voices of certain religious leaders (who otherwise are always out for each other’s blood) or how easily this issue could (and has) become political (afterally our bodies are not ours but political tools of contention).
So, let me give you a preview of what the scenario in India has been like: everything is about the elections in 2014. People want a change, the present governmance has not been very effective while people are dealing with high inflation and raised food prices. In the middle of all this, last two weeks have been about Lok Sabha (or the lower house) elections in four states, including Delhi.
Now guess what, the political parties are coming out with some surprising statements about how they support or don’t support criminalisation of homosexuals. Of course their deliberations can be very patronising and sometimes downright ridiculous but they need to be followed as whether a sexual identity could make one into a criminal or not is to be deliberated in the Legilature!
This (of course) will raise up more discussions around live-ins, LGBTQs and create more stigma.
However, as of now all I can hope is that the protests happening at Jantar Mantar, Delhi (one that I participated in) and various parts of India influences the legislature.
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