Hyderabad: On Thursday, the Supreme Court, in a momentous move, decriminalised homosexuality ending a 158-year-old British law. The verdict comes as life support to the community spread across India, which has been battling discrimination and, worse, criminalisation.
“Der aaye durust aaye. The judgment has stood up for the future of LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals) in India,” said Prof Hoshang Merchant, a senior representative of the community. Its members from the city who called for a celebration however say there is a bigger battle ahead in fighting social stigma.
“Love and perseverance have conquered. The Supreme Court has paved the way and society should accept it. The verdict is like an oxygen mask for the community. A long pending legacy case has been settled in our favour. I am 72 years old and my struggle started five decades ago. The journey has been painful. I have seen many lives lost, ruined and dejected. But better late than never. The Law has no place in the bedrooms of two consenting adults, it cannot infringe on privacy. I hope the stigma attached to us and the discrimination does not continue,” Prof Merchant said. His books on sexuality discrimination are in the archives of a University in Norwell - NY.
“RIP Section 377,” said a jubilant Ganesh Nallari. “There is no more a place for homophobia in India. In the true sense the LGBT community has got its freedom because not many are bold enough to stand by what they are. The agonising journey of every individual that faced discrimination is a testimony. The verdict will help boost confidence in us. If not an immediate change in the society, the judgment will surely open doors for more conversation with family, friends and society, that were considered taboo a day ago.”
The five-member bench that read out the judgement stirred emotions when it said India owes an apology to the community. A few concurring opinions were made, such as sexual orientation is natural, a majority view and popular morality cannot dictate to the constitution. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder, the autonomy of an individual is important and one can’t surrender it to anyone. Denial of the right to sexual orientation is denial of a right to privacy, the court said.
Kaveri Karthi Bitto, who prefers to be addressed as he said, “The right to love with dignity has been recognised. Further, discrimination based on sexuality is unconstitutional. Society should understand and respect that same-sex preference between two consenting adults is not a crime. But, though the verdict has granted the community its constitutional rights, the legal change should reflect in the society. Any official correspondence, like a petition, reservations, police complaints must identify us as the third gender. It is a victory over prejudice.”...