On the first anniversary of the scrapping of parts of Section 377, let’s take a look at the life of the members of the LGBTQ+ community post the revolutionary judgement. Have things really changed?
Today marks one year of the 377 judgement, where the supreme court unanimously ruled that consensual same-sex relations were no longer considered ‘against the order of nature’ as the law dictated earlier. The five-judge Constitution bench brought a landmark decision in the history of LGBTQIA+ rights in India. This decision was celebrated by many. Rainbow merchandise and profile pictures flooded the internet. Solidarity came in the form of hushed whispers in the University campus and low squeals of ‘Congratulations’ in-between friends. Solidarity came in the form of comfort that we’re not criminals anymore. The famous slogan used at pride parades and protests, “kaunsa kanoon sabse battar? AFSPA, sedition, teen-sau sathatarr (Which law is the worst? AFSPA, sedition, 377)” was now lost in the pages of history.
A reality check followed immediately after the judgement, it was a small step in a big direction, one that could change the face of queer rights in India, but did it make a difference to the everyday lives of queer-identifying folks?
The lives of people from the community are still subject to scrutiny, harassment, and threats. It is not uncommon to hear about young people from the community being disowned from their families because of their identity. It is not uncommon to hear about employees being fired because of their identity. Queerness comes with an eternal bond to humiliation and loneliness, even national champion Dutee Chand was degraded and shamed after she came out.
The 377 judgement creates the disbelief that people can finally come out of the closet, but in truth, coming out is like stepping out in a minefield.
Queerness comes with tied misogyny and sexism. Queer communities are far from getting away with hierarchies and casual sexism. The 377 judgement tackled consensual same-sex relations but it fails to address the homophobia in the everyday life of the society. From Bollywood tropes and songs to ‘woke liberal spaces’, homophobia still thrives proudly and shows very little signs of fading away. The abolition of section 377 also gave rise to rainbow capitalism. Corporate marketed rainbow-themed merchandise, from t-shirts to underwear, rainbow capitalism gave more leverage to the so-called liberal class for spurring out casual homophobia and queerphobia while masquerading around in rainbow merchandise.
“There is no difference; we now see rainbow merchandise being openly available by big corporate brands. That’s all.” says a student from Ramjas College.
Queer identities are yet to be accepted fully in the public space. In the case of the University of Delhi (DU), National Students’ Union of India’s (NSUI) election manifesto promises reservation in hostels for the LGBTQIA+ community and sessions to sensitise the students and faculty about them. However, the increase of harassment during the DUSU elections makes the University campus another minefield for visibly queer folks.
“My professors are more likely to act like discrimination based on my queerness no longer occurs because the judgement happened. Like section 377 was the only problem we faced and after the judgement, we were alright again.” says a student from National Law University, Delhi. “No, I don’t feel safe in public spaces. I think there’s more backlash because of the 377 judgement.” adds a student from DU. All of this makes one wonder, has the country really progressed since 377 was taken down?
“Not in the slightest, one cannot be persecuted by law but will be persecuted by the public.” says a graduate from Bangalore University. “The only difference I see is that people now know what Section 377 was.” says a student from the Ambedkar University.
India has a long way to go in terms of queer rights and making public spaces queer-friendly. The change does not begin from courtrooms but from small acts of acceptance and inclusivity.
Feature Image Credits: Namrata Randhawa for DU Beat