Love Triumphs

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | VANDANA MOHANDAS
Published Sep 7, 2018, 12:00 am IST
Updated Sep 7, 2018, 12:06 am IST
The landmark SC judgement decriminalising homosexuality has evoked loud cheers from the LGBTQIA+ community.
The crowd awaiting the news on the Supreme Court premises broke into celebration as euphoria spreads across the country.
 The crowd awaiting the news on the Supreme Court premises broke into celebration as euphoria spreads across the country.

It was the much-awaited day of judgment. And when it was made, history was wiped out and a new one was written. Love is no longer a crime!  The Supreme Court has, in a landmark judgment, scrapped the British-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that had criminalised homosexuality. It has declared that consensual sex among adults is not an offence, reading down the law that penalises people for their sexual orientation. The crowd awaiting the news on the Supreme Court premises broke into celebration as euphoria spreads across the country.   “No longer will I be called a criminal for my gay identity,” says a jubilant Prijith, secretary of Queerhythm, a community-based organisation in Thiruvananthapuram working for the rights of gender and sexual minorities. He prefers to call the judgment a ‘relief’ because he knows there’s a long way to go. “What is changing is 158-year-long history and at this moment, my thoughts go out to all those martyrs of this unofficial struggle. There are thousands who were killed, committed suicide and driven to death through humiliation. This is their victory too.” 

Mohammed Unais was in class when the news broke. “I literally broke down,” he says, speaking from the Thiruvananthapuram-bound train he boarded from Kollam to take part in the celebrations at Manaveeyam Veedhi. “I hadn’t expected the court to consider the case first and since yesterday, I was excited, tense and curious. Having known many who had committed suicide unable to face the stigma, I am sad that they are not alive to see this beautiful day,” he says.  Acceptance had come from her mother and sister for Deepa Vasudevan, who now hopes to reveal her lesbian identity to her extended family too. Speaking on the way to Mumbai to join the festivities, the co-founder of Sahayathrika, an organisation for lesbian/bisexual women and transgender persons of Kerala origin, she says, “It’s an overwhelming moment, the end of a struggle that lasted over two decades. With the judgment, social recognition, legal protection and acceptance from families will all come. It felt so good when one of the judges commented that history owes an apology to the community members and their families for the delay in redressal, the ignominy and ostracism we suffered through the centuries.” 

 

Tony Christopher was amidst celebrations in Bengaluru, where he works as a techie. Laughing throughout the conversation, the Kollam native explains how relieved he is. “No more exploitation, extortion, scrutiny and shaming. I can tell people not to meddle with my private life,” he says, recalling that scary night when he was frisked by policemen after they stopped his vehicle near Koramangala and went through his baggage to find his makeup kit. He adds, “Now, I can confidently tell those scrutinising cops that what you do is illegal.” 
Now that there’s constitutional validity for their sexual identity, the LGBTQIA+ community has fewer things to fear. But all of them are sure about one thing — it will take time. Unais says, “More activities and awareness programmes need to be carried out to change the attitude of people around. However, this move will bring confidence to several persons who dreaded to come out; they will open up to their family and friends.” 

“Acceptance is surely on the way. It will take time, but eventually, everyone will accept everyone,” says Tony, who is well-aware that wiping out the stigma completely is not possible.  Deepa too agrees, “There will be a backlash from right-wing groups but hate crimes will lessen and more supportive government programmes will be there. Social attitude needs to change. Let’s wait and see.” 
There are more things to focus on. As Prijith puts it, “The order has no mention about marriage, adoption and reproduction rights. So, the fight will continue, until we gain it.”  Tony has been fighting for inclusive corporate policies for long. “Many IT firms and MNCs have policies, but because of the legal hindrance, many corporates have been apprehensive. Activism will also be benefited. The government will release more funds for NGOs that work for sexual health, HIV awareness, etc.” he feels.  Above all, their dignity will be restored. Tony concludes, “I am my parents’ only child and now, I am glad that my family will not be isolated because of my identity. And we don’t have to think of fleeing our own country anymore.”

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