Section 377- The Great Indian Nightmare

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'I am what I am, so take me as I am.' This is what the Judges said against Section 377.
377 Gay Protests

Let me take you through a dream I saw the other day. 

It was a bright Monday morning. My mom woke up as she usually does. I was preparing for my first day at school after the summer holidays, as I was promoted to the 9th grade.

My dad usually polishes my shoes, but that day he was nowhere around.

Rather I found another lady getting ready to drop me by my school. After I reached my class, the scene was unusual as my teacher made boys and girls sit together.

I was sitting beside Suhana, the girl I had a crush on since the 1st grade. In the recess, I saw the teacher punishing 2 boys because they went secretly behind the playground.

When I got back home, I found my mom and the other lady browsing through my phone and started scolding me as soon as they found I was chatting with my best buddy Satya.

I couldn’t comprehend that behavior. Silently I slipped into my room and my sister was smiling at her phone.

I thought she found a new partner. Turns out she did and her name is Priyanka.

I ignored that and started talking to her about what happened in school, me sitting with Suhana.

Usually, she listened to that very curiously, but that day she behaved as if there was nothing special.

When I started pushing on the fact that I liked Suhana, she asked me whether I was a bisexual?

I looked at her astound and replied: “No, I’m straight”. 

She immediately held my hand and asked me if I had lost my senses, because apparently in our country, being “Straight” was illegal till a couple of years ago, but is still frowned upon by the society.

I lost my mind; I could take it no more. 

When did being straight become a crime?

My sister assured me that if my family doesn’t accept my sexuality, she’ll protect me. 

Why can’t my parents accept my sexuality when it’s natural? 

My sister also told me that although being straight is no more crime, marriage isn’t legalized.

These people have been fighting for equal rights since ages.

Suddenly my mom entered the room having heard the whole conversation. She immediately slapped me. The other lady overheard this and immediately went to consult a doctor.

My mom missed her lunch and got over the phone with some close relatives.

She figured out some yoga could be a cure to my disease! 

Which disease? 

The other lady came back to inform that the doctor prescribed a shock therapy. I was about to scream, and, I woke up! It was just a one-night dream for me, but a parallel nightmare for many.

Now, let’s talk about Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. It deals with ‘Unnatural Offences’.

Till 6th of September, 2018 homosexuality was one of the many offences in that section.

As far as I interpreted the context, lawmakers thought having a sexual relationship with a person of the same gender is same as having a sexual relationship with an animal, and declared it unnatural. 

[1]The war for equal rights and recognition have been pretty long. Longer than our eyes may reach.

But apparently, the revolution started around 1991 when the AIDS BHEDBHAV VIRODHI ANDOLAN (ABVA) came out with a report, mentioning the amount of torture, harassment and blackmail faced by “Gay People in India”; followed by 1994 when Kiran Bedi denies condoms for inmates at Tihar Jail, stating that it’ll be an act of promoting homosexuality.

The first uproar to decriminalize section 377 was initiated then by ABVA who filed a petition in High Court of Delhi, which eventually got dismissed in 2001, the year when NAZ foundation also found its involvement in the movement.

Their PIL was dismissed in 2004 by Delhi High Court, with the reason stated as “Homosexuality is purely an academic issue” and not to be dealt by the court.

As absurd as one may find such reasoning, I think “Criminalization of Homosexuality” was indeed an academic issue. Because educational institutions are solely responsible for a student’s mindset and perception of things.

And the reason India still isn’t able to accept LGBTQ as something natural and not a disease is also an ‘Academic Issue’.

The Supreme Court and the Parliament were trying to keep section 377 as it was, until 2009 when the Delhi High Court gave the judgement to decriminalize it as “it violates the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and equality as enshrined in the Indian constitution”.

The short-lived decision brought a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community, which was overturned by the Apex Court which denied the scope of any unconstitutionality and declared the HC’s judgement “legally unsustainable” in 2013.

Participants dance at a rally in New Delhi demanding the end of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes same-sex relations illegal.
(Gurinder Osan / Associated Press)

Some high profiled inclusions to the movement were seen in 2016 when a writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court by Award-winning dancer Navtej Singh Johar, chef Ritu Dalmia and hotelier Aman Nath. Then in 2017, the Judgement of Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors, the case brought a new ray of hope for revolution as it included “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual based on sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual”.[2]

More “High- Profile” gay people started joining this movement, including hotelier Keshav Suri in 2018.

Finally, the hearing started in July and on 6th of September 2018, section 377 dealing with “Homosexuality” was decriminalized!

India saw a new wave of emotions. People celebrated their victory in a war against injustice.

Personally, I feel decriminalization isn’t the same as legalization as the latter includes protection provided by the system.

So, the war isn’t over.

The “Trans Bill” is being amended from time to time to bring in better equality. 

The nightmare has got over partially; 1 year 9 months past, but acceptance is yet to come. I’ll share a tweet, to sum up my feeling.


[1] Timeline: The struggle against section 377 began over two decades ago, September 6, 2018 By Maria Thomas Writer at Quartz India [2]SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

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