It appears the long-drawn battle of the LGBTQ community against Section 377 IPC, which criminalises gay sex, might see an acceptable resolution after all. The Supreme Court has not only agreed that a three-member Constitution Bench will hear the plea against this archaic law — a relic of Victorian-era prudishness — but also virtually pointed the way ahead by talking about how “societal morality changes from age to age”. The fact that this law is still in force in this day and age, thanks to a 2013 verdict overturning a landmark Delhi high court ruling in 2009, is a poor reflection on the liberal nature of India’s open society, that has evolved over centuries with very modern acceptance of an individual’s sexual preferences.
There has been considerable progress: with transgenders and hijras being relieved of the legal stigma and social discrimination they faced over their indistinct gender identity. The obiter dicta in the Aadhaar privacy case too specifically mentioned the right to privacy over sex. As a matter of first principles, criminalising sex between consenting adults goes against the very grain of natural justice. As long as there’s no coercion, there’s no need for the State to know what happens in the bedroom. Gays have had a torrid time in India too long. While society has learnt to live with individual choices, it was the legal ruling that was disturbing most affected people. The lowest rungs of police forces often used the provision for harassment and extortion. The sooner it’s off the statute book, the easier life would get for LGBTQ people.