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We have been re-criminalised: Gay groups

Published Dec 12, 2013, 4:37 pm IST
Updated Mar 18, 2019, 11:31 pm IST
Gay activists staging a protest in Bangalore against the gay sex verdict.
 Gay activists staging a protest in Bangalore against the gay sex verdict.

Bangalore: A fortnight ago, they came out in hundreds on the streets of Bangalore to parade their alternate sexuality during the Pride March, which was part of the Karnataka Queer habba and demanded that government hospitals should facilitate free Sex Reassignment Surgery and hormone treatment.

On Wednesday soon after the Supreme Court division bench set aside the 2009 Delhi High Court judgment and upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, massive protests broke out in the city, which has been known to be supportive of minority rights, including those of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) community. Section 377 IPC criminalizes “unnatural sex” or carnal intercourse, which is “against the order of nature.”

“The Supreme Court has given us a criminal tag. We have been re-criminalised and have become a criminal tribe. Today’s judgment has pushed the community back to the closet and given the police a carte blanche to target the sexuality minorities,” said Elavarthi Manohar – a political activist and founder of ‘Sangma,’ one of the first sexuality minority rights groups in the city.

Manohar, a bisexual, was one of the first in the city to have made public his alternate sexuality in the late 90s. Calling it a black day in the history of gay rights, Arvind Narrain, a lawyer and gay activist said the apex court judgment was a “betrayal of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution in Articles 14 and 21.”

“Section 377 IPC is a very strong Section, which criminalizes heinous offences such as paedophilia, sodomy and necrophilia among other criminal acts. It’s not just about criminalizing homosexuality. It should be seen in the entire perspective. The State can repeal the Section by deleting the portion on criminalizing homosexuality,” said a senior police officer. 

Next: Coming out in open

Coming out in open

The first rumblings of the alternate sexuality movement in the city started with the setting up of ‘Good as You (Gay)’ – a small LGBT group in 1994 in which, a handful of people would attend closed door meetings.

Around the same time a collective of people of alternate sexualities formed ‘Sabrang.’ Literally meaning ‘all colours,’ it evolved into a political activist group and brought the debate of rights of sexuality minorities into the public domain.

‘Sabrang’ organised public lectures and started intensifying various social movements.

In 1997, the students of the National Law School India University (NLSIU) organised a seminar on gay rights.

On December 10, 1999, ‘Sangama’ the City’s first research and documentation centre on sexuality minorities was launched after its founder Elavarthi Manohar received the McArthur Fellowship for his dissertation on the issue.

In 2000, another NGO ‘Swabhava’ launched ‘Sahaya’, Bangalore’s first helpline– 2230959- for sexuality minorities. Later, in June 2001, the Amnesty International’s global report on the alleged excesses on sexuality minorities was released in Bangalore, following which around 10 people declared their alternate identities in a meeting– ‘Breaking the Silence.’

This launched the LGBT community in the City and they began contesting for their political identity.

Around 300 hijras in Bangalore have been given their voter identity cards, in which they have claimed to belong to the 'other' gender.

There are 20,000 working class LGBT members in the City and around one lakh in Karnataka.

Next: ‘We will not keep quiet’

‘We will not keep quiet’

Soon after the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court ruling decriminalizing homosexuality, LGBT community rose in protest all over the country and Bangalore was no exception. Many thronged to Town Hall from 3.30 pm onwards to express their disappointment over the apex court’s decision.

LGBT activist Akkai Padmashali told Deccan Chronicle, “We are waiting for our legal experts to come down from Delhi to decide on the road ahead. We will invite all groups and communities, including Women's and Dalit organisations, and all our supporters. Then we will conduct a meeting, wherein we will take some big decisions.”

Voicing a similar opinion, Mari Eva Mendes, the core committee member of We're Here and Queer (WHAQ) said, “We are not going to take this quietly and be silent. You are going to witness many more such protests in the coming weeks. In fact, we will take all the viable legal options.”

Location: Karnataka


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