Sponsored by

SC verdict on Section 377: Members of LGBTQ community say judgment only marks beginning of struggle for freedom

Editor's note: Firstpost reached out to several members of the LGBTQ community for their reaction to the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. We tried to compile voices from across the LGBTQA+ spectrum and give their stories a platform in their voice. The following are first-person accounts, lightly edited for style and clarity. Names of some of the people have been withheld/ changed upon request. The following articles were originally written in Bengali and have been translated by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay and Dhrubo Jyothi.

Adi Basu, student at Jadavpur University and a transman

Translated from Bengali by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

The seven colours of the rainbow send shivers through my body today – colours free from the shadow of Article 377. After the longest period of time, we witness fearless celebrations in every nook and corner of the city. Section 377 of the IPC – the notorious law that snatches from us one of the most basic human rights – the right to love. As the same rule lies shattered in the dust, the mind’s joys seem to know no bounds.

Through some of the strictest of laws, the Indian legal system has bound LGBTQ people in chains over the years. They don’t have the simplest of rights. In order to live a life of dignity, they have to fight much bigger battles than the rest of us. As it is, our social system has always tried to victimise them ruthlessly. Day and night, they find themselves the targets of raised eyebrows. They live a life in which deprivation seems to be an everyday affair – the natural order of things. In the face of adversity, they swim against the tide with incredible strength. Under such circumstances, if the law does not come to their aid, how are these people going to live a healthy and normal life?

And then comes the defining moment in which Section 377 has been struck down. Words fail to describe the joy of this long-awaited victory, especially when it has come after so many defeats. A few of us were gathered in a city café, watching the news on television. In one moment, the brand of ‘criminals’ was erased from our foreheads, and we became free. We, who never miss an opportunity to enjoy a moment of happiness – this day of victory belongs to us. And to those who uphold the very notion of love.

 SC verdict on Section 377: Members of LGBTQ community say judgment only marks beginning of struggle for freedom

A man outside the Supreme Court protesting against Section 377 of the IPC. AP

A careful examination of Section 377 would reveal that a few sexual acts and behaviours had been labelled ‘unnatural’ and ‘illegal’. It was assumed that only homosexuals were prone to these specific sexual acts, and hence the provision itself came to be known as a bane for homosexuality. This little success of ours paves the way for a big change in the lives of homosexuals. But this is by no means the end of the war, it is only a tiny battle won, and we still need to march ahead. And while our path may be strewn with innumerable hurdles, our will is strong.

If I were to speak of my own personal feelings at the moment, I would say that for me, this day marks the beginning of my freedom. There seems to a beautiful halo of light all around, and it seems to wash my mind with its luminescence. As I walk the streets today, I can ignore the frowns that accost me – I can smile and move ahead. It’s a beautiful day, a happy day for me. With the crushing of a one-hundred-and-fifty-eight-year-old archaic and insensitive law, my mind feels like humming the following words – "The skies light up with my freedom, my freedom."

Raina Roy, a senior transgender activist based out of Kolkata

Translated from Bengali by Dhrubho Jyothi

Since Thursday, I have come across a lot of updates of people on Facebook and other social media websites (about the apex court’s decision to read down Section 377) that have provoked mixed feelings in me.

Let me take you back a few years.

Do you remember Fire, a film that dealt a body blow to India’s heterosexual, patriarchal society?

Do you remember the Delhi High Court’s verdict in 2006?

Do you remember the second of July, 2009?

On 6 September, again, what echoed across India was that homosexuality is no longer a crime. But the question that lingers on my mind is if this law was only applicable for queer people? Or whether the point of the law was only to intimidate the already vulnerable LGBTQ community?

Whatever the answer might be, I see this truly as a transformative moment. But at the same time, I wonder as to how much change this decision will usher in our daily lives.

How big a change will it bring to the lives of those who live on the poverty line, who are members of the Scheduled Castes, who identify with genders and sexualities that are marginal?

You may rejoice at this decision. I am happy too. But I cannot help but go back to the history of our lives. As feminine transpeople, we are the most vulnerable, we are the first to get hurt. Whatever the courts might decide, or the media says, whether they rule in favour of the law or against, we will continue to be pierced by slurs.

You know, I am astonished at how long it took, and how much effort it took to remove a regressive, shameful law enacted by the British.

The joy I feel today is not mine alone, it is one more step for the progress of our community. It is also a step forward for India’s feminist struggle.

I can chant slogans calling for azaadi (freedom) as much as I want, but I wonder whether it will make even a dent on the discrimination, oppression and humiliation based on socio-economic conditions, caste, creed or faith. Will it ameliorate the cries of pain of those of our community who haven’t been able to keep pace, who have been left behind?

And yet, I know the judgment is like a shaft of light dispelling the darkness of a long-shut room.

Today, I remember all those people who have spent the better part of their life fighting the good fight. I remember those who walked the streets with it but are no longer with us. If this law was for all, then why did we have to fight so hard, for so long?

Tell me something. We could change the law, will we be able to change the society? Tomorrow, when the gaze of the boys at the corner of the my street fall on me, will I be able to change their outlook? Will it end the abuse of power? Until we carry the burden of oppression and torture, this fight will remain ours, but will you be able to change the “them” to “our”? Remember, the LGBT movement talks of a tomorrow free from all forms of collective oppression and kindles the dream of an equal society. How much will the court’s judgment help in realising that dream?

Still, I haven’t lost hope. Of the thousand doors that have shut in our face, one has finally opened and let us in. As they say in the movies, this is not the end, this is just the beginning.

Read similar accounts in this article

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Sep 11, 2018 06:52:51 IST