Activists rejoice as India scraps draconian homosexuality ban

Scrolling through your Facebook wall yesterday, you may have come across the mass jubilation that has gripped the nation of 1.3 billion: India finally witnessed the end of LGBT+ criminalization.

On September 6, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India unanimously scrapped the draconian Section 377 measure which had held homosexuality as a criminal offence in the country. 

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Justice Dipak Mishra described Section 377 as "irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary" and added that history owed an apology to the LGBT+ community. While India has not witnessed much by the way of enforcement measures against homosexuality, the overturning of Section 377 represents a great victory for the LGBT+ community. 

The crusade against Section 377, a British colonial heirloom, begun in 1991. NGOs and activists spearheaded the movement in what was then an officially socialist, largely conservative society yet to experience the free market ethos that was gripping the globe.

Same-sex couples such as Sunil Mehra and Navtej Johar were at the forefront of the movement to abolish Section 377 and faced persecution, followed by a gradual buildup of support as public opinion evolved.

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In an interview with the Guardian, Johar said, "We have been OK. I am 63 — we have lived our lives. We had fought for our bit of sun and we found it. It was more for all those who didn’t have our class privileges, education, intellect, money and connections to insulate them. It was so that these other lives could be lived in the sun, rather than in burrowed, dark spaces."

Several other battles such as this were fought, out in the public eye and behind closed doors. Gay pride marches were held, attended in the thousands, and barely tolerated by the authorities. Meanwhile, civil society kept up the pressure on the judiciary to reopen the case for abolition.

The judicial judgement of September 6 is a culmination of all these efforts: a victory for the human rights and gender movements in equal measure; but it's only a beginning, we have a long way to go. 

More about: India / LGBT+ / Tough Activists

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