by Bindisha Sarang Dec 16, 2013 17:07 IST
From Mumbai to Montréal and Lucknow to London, more that 35 cities across the globe pledged that there would be “No going back”- a refusal to return to the closet - in response to the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Section 377, which effectively recrimalised homosexuality in India.
Firstpost attended one such protest in Mumbai, Matunga, where hundreds of people from the LGBT community and LGBT rights supporters voiced their firm resolve that there would simply be “No going back”. “This judgement, which simply put, violates the basic human rights of the community needs to be scrapped totally.” said a 20 something holding a placard which read, “Born this way.”
Considering that their battle for recognition and equality has been long and hard, we posed a question to a few couples and singles of the LGBT community, to know if they've had enough of fighting, and would look for greener pastures elsewhere in the world, to be who they are without being called “criminal.” We asked them if they would consider leaving India to take asylum in another country.
Dhamini Ratnam, Head of content, Queer-ink said, “Political asylum is a tool that has undoubtedly helped a number of people involved in social, political or cultural activities, and harbouring ideologies deemed criminal in their respective hegemonic states. Edward Snowden, for instance, has taken political asylum in Russia, Julian Assange in the embassy of Ecuador in London. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict, queer Indians may qualify for asylum, since they run the risk of persecution and being deprived of liberty.” On being asked whether this argument would be valid in the context of the 377 judgement, Ratnam said, “However, I would say that it is too early to talk of asylum in our context. For one, there is hope to fight the Supreme Court judgement that recriminalised homosexuality.”
Angel, a 20 something who had come for the protest along with his partner said, “We would never move out of India, even if it becomes worse than it is now.” To which is partner said, “Would I buy a different house if my current house had pest issues? What we are doing here is pest control (protesting the SC judgement), we will fight this pest, and continue to stay here.”
A lesbian couple we spoke to voiced the same opinion.
One of the protestors, an ex armed forces Captain said, “I have served my country. I pay taxes, I am a law abiding citizen. I won’t leave this country, not after the SC’s judgement. Yes, the thought did cross our minds to relocate to another country, but after the December judgement, we will stay back, and fight for what’s rightfully ours.”
Vijay, an artist though had another view, “ I have decided to leave this country, through which ever route, maybe an asylum route if that’s possible to another gay friendly country. I took this decision after the judgement last week. I have been harassed by the police, where I pay a bribe every few days. The police are blackmailing me- of outing me to my family.” Though Vijay’s face was hidden behind a mask, his eyes were full of tears, and his voice choked as he said, “377 makes blackmailers even more powerful, I will migrate, anyhow, asylum or no asylum. I have made my decision.”
But other couples we spoke to had more hope than Vijay.
Their responses echoed the view that the fight against the judgement has just got more intense, and that they would continue to fight for their right to live in dignity and equality like every other Indian citizen.
Ratnam said, “Judging by the number of people who came out to protest on Sunday in Mumbai alone, it is clear that queer India is raring to fight for its fundamental rights that were rescinded. What's more, this fight that is being spearheaded by the LGBT community will also have positive repercussions for society at large, since everyone stands to be affected under Section 377.”
With more support from the other side of the rainbow aka the straight world voicing their support for the queer community via social media and other routes, there is more hope than ever before.
Of course there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the question we posed. Each individual and couple has their individual circumstance to deal with.
But by and large the Queer community is not going anywhere; they are here to fight back and fight hard. Ratnam said, “What further bolsters our hope is the global outcry against the Supreme Court judgement - protests were held in over 38 countries. We are exploring legal options - a nation-wide conference is set to be held in Delhi, where the community will gather to discuss the way forward, and every option will be explored. There is no going back, and for many, the way forward is filled with hope, as much as it is filled with strife.”
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