Model, actor and equal rights activist Sushant Divgikar — who was Mr Gay India in 2014 — spoke with Firstpost in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Section 377. Edited excerpts:
What has the journey to this moment, as the SC pronounces its ruling on Sec 377, felt like — for you, personally, and for queer Indians and allies?
I have been out and about for a long time now. I was among the youngest TV show hosts who was openly gay. Back then, I was scared and worried about the backlash because of my sexual orientation. But I had amazing allies who helped me through those trying years.
Over the years, the mindset has changed and it’s time indeed that Section 377 was scrapped. It’s not even an Indian construct! It is a Victorian relic and reflects a colonial mindset. Section 377 should have left when the British left our country, it should have ended with the end of their oppressive and inhumane rule.
Section 377 has now been thrown in the bin — which is where it belongs. It violated the fundamental rights of millions of Indians — rights the Constitution promises all the citizens of this great country.
What for you have been the major milestones along this journey of scrapping Section 377?
(What we appreciate is that) there have been so many supporters of equal rights for the LGBTQ community, from even outside the community. Straight allies have been with us all through our fight for equality. We are going through a revolution and I think we deserve to be heard and respected.
One also thinks of the 2009 Delhi HC ruling, which had felt like such a landmark at the time — only to be overturned by the SC in 2013. What did those intervening years feel like?
They weren’t the easiest. The 2009 judgement was a breath of fresh air and we soaked it all in. And then in 2013, our brief moment of triumph was taken away from us. They tried to push us back inside the closet. But I guess it was too late… our fight got stronger and harder and today we welcome the SC’s verdict.
The year past has seen such a concerted effort on behalf of queer Indians, allies and equal rights activists to appeal against Sec 377 in the SC…
Of course, but we cannot forget all the wonderful people who started this fight and have come before us. Right from Ashok Row Kavi to Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi to Harish Iyer and myself, to now millions of young Indians coming forward to fight the good fight, not to forget our allies. It has been a joint effort that has led to this day.
What does the road ahead look like? Is the battle for equal rights won now that the SC has scraped Sec 377?
The legality is one thing but sensitisation programmess and educating the masses is going to be extremely important moving forward. Social acceptance will take place only based on how we tackle the situation. We need to make sure we educate each and every Indian about the equal rights of every individual who belongs to this country.
What does this verdict today mean to you?
My fight started when I was on television for the first time and the year India re-established Section 377 in 2013. This was when I was representing India at the Mr Gay World contest in Rome. Today, I’m the South Asia director for the same organisation, its youngest board member, and I can see only greater things happening in the future.
I am thankful to those who came before me and I will stand by those who come after.
Follow live updates on the landmark judgment here.
Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 13:29:40 IST