If there is one constitutional tenet that is the underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of 'inclusiveness', said the Delhi High Court in 2009 in a landmark verdict on the Kaushal Vs Naz case, popularly known as the '377 case'.
The judgement won laurels across the globe for reinstating the faith in constitutional morality. But little did we know that we were celebrating a bit too early.
Four years later, the Supreme Court tells us we are a minority and too few in number for the courts to be bothered about our basic fundamental rights. We consider December 11, 2013, as the blackest day in the history of human rights in the country. As we witness the first anniversary of the reinstitution of the draconian law that dates back to 1860, declaring queer people as criminals based on their sexual orientations, we are filled with despair.
We were taught in school that our country has tough laws to protect us but if you think about it, 377 is the only law that convicts citizens for loving someone of the same sex.
But laws are written by humans. We'll continue to fight inside and outside courtrooms each day till we rewrite these them.
What has really changed in the last four years?
The Delhi High Court judgement helped thousands of people to come to terms with their sexual identities. Young and old, they mustered the courage to come out to their friends and families, thanks to the legal status quo. I remember the case of Dr Siras from Aligarh Muslim University who was framed and filmed by his homophobic colleagues.
He was expelled from his job as a professor but he decided to fight back. The entire nation echoed the violation of his privacy and eventually he got his job back, though he died mysteriously a day later. But the point is, the legal platform to fight back for cases such as this is now gone. This is just one of the reported cases which took centre stage but there are thousands of incidents which are not reported because the inevitable stigma associated with homosexuality. Post December 11, the LGBTQI community has been more vulnerable than ever. The verdict has paved the way for bullies and blackmailers. It has put us in the category of rapists, murderers and criminals. In the last one year we have seen a spike in hate crimes, violence against LGBTQI community--arrests and suicides. Despite the Nalsa judgment recognizing Hijras as the third gender, 150 transgenders were arrested in Bangalore a few days ago and harassed. Custodial rape is common practice.
What really happens to people who have dared to step out of the closet? There is no going back to 377 and that's something very clear to us. December 15, 2013 witnessed the Global Day of Raged where 40 cities across the globe--Delhi, Ahemdabad, Guwahati, J'berg, Boston, London, New York and Raipur--to name a few condemned the Supreme Court's unconstitutional verdict. The debate on the burning issue is still on while the legal procedure continues.
Our plea to the review petition was rejected followed by admission of the curative petition that stands to be the last; it was, I repeat, the last legal option in the framework of law. But we want to send out a clear message that it is the duty of the highest court to protect and safeguard the interest of the minorities. We are glad that larger discourses are now happening with shows such as Satyamev Jayate taking up our cause. It definitely helps people understand the issue better and recognize that it's about human rights, equality and dignity--that the majority enjoys by default.