Homosexuality in India

It was supposed to be a day of celebration, with screens and even balloons put up at offices of various LGBT groups in anticipation of a verdict that would help uphold gay rights. But the SC ruling re-criminalising homosexuality came as a shocker instead. It caused disbelief and deep disappointment across the country and sparked protests in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Chandigarh.

Shock, disbelief, dejection: Mood sours across India

In Delhi, hundreds of people belonging to the gay community gathered at Jantar Mantar for a protest, most of them clad in black to indicate the mood.

Those not from the community — students from JNU and Delhi University, and activist from groups such as AISA and SFI — too joined in, waving rainbow-coloured flags. “It’s not a struggle only for people within the community but a fight for fundamental rights,” said Suhana Mazumdar, a DU student.

While more than 60 people participated in a protest at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, in Chennai, protesters gathered near the Chepauk stadium at 4 pm, raising slogans and holding up placards that read, ‘Will Parliament Step In?’, ‘Our Love Is Not A Crime’ and ‘Are We Not the Citizens of This Country?’

“The government is trying to put us back in the closet, but that will never happen,” said a defiant Suresh, member of Chennai Dost, a community for gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Sadly, at a protest organised by the Chennai Rainbow Coalition, which consists of a number of LGBT groups, the masks were back. “It has always been difficult for women to come out. Now it has become even tougher,” said Shruthi, a dupatta wrapped around her face.

In Kolkata, a protest rally was held at the Academy of Fine Arts campus, the very spot where theLGBT community had celebrated the Delhi high court verdict four years ago. Gay rights activists vowed to step up protests against what they felt was an infringement of human rights.

Activist Pawan Dhall said, “Other than being a setback for the LGBT movement, this verdict raises fears of persecution. Community members will be hounded across neighbourhoods, public places and roads.”

“We have been let down very badly, four years after we’d been given to believe homosexuality would be dicriminalized,” said Minakshi Sanyal, co-founder of Saffo for Equality, a gay rights body.

Author Nabaneeta Dev Sen said, “Sexual orientation is a private matter, and everyone has the right to choose.”

A serious fallout of the verdict was visible in Lucknow: though nearly 100 protesters gathered at one spot, only three persons were willing to admit – that too, off camera – that they were gay.

The prince of Rajpipla in Gujarat, Manvendra Singh Gohil, the royal posterboy for gay rights in India, said the SC order was disappointing but the fight had only just begun. “I see a ray of hope… the SC has said Parliament can take a call on this. It is now up to us to strengthen advocacy. Some parliamentarians have supported us, and there is positive response to our demand from several quarters,” he said.

Sridhar Rangayan, who has been hosting South Asia’s biggest Queer Film Festival, Kashish, said, “The LGBT voice is being gagged. In a democratic country, homosexuals being treated as criminals is unacceptable.”

Minal Hajratwala, editor of the book ‘Out! Stories from the New Queer India,’ said, “SC has reinstated an archaic form of discrimination and prudery brought to India by Queen Victoria’s minions. But this human rights movement will not go back into the closet.”

In Chandigarh, a protest was held in Sector 17, with activists holding posters that read, ‘Manav adhikar sab ka adhikar’ and ‘377 khatam karo.’

Rubina Singh, an LGBT activist who called the judgement shocking, said, “We are feeling betrayed.”

Rights groups in Goa said they would organise a protest soon. Sophia Heredia, founder of the Calangute-based Rista, said many gays were in live-in relationships and could suffer as a result of the verdict.

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