Section 377 repealed of the Indian Penal Code
Preliminary views, we need to read the judgment carefully:
Question 1) Is this judgment only applicable in Delhi?
Response) This is the first time a court as senior as this, with such respected judges, has given a decision on homosexuality. Because of that it sends a powerful signal to the legal establishment across the country. We are confident that judges, lawyers and police officers across the country will understand and follow the Delhi High Court’s lead
Question 2) Is this judgment against Indian culture?
Response) This judgment is against an alien law imposed on Indian culture! The law was imposed by the British more than 150 years ago on the more tolerant traditions of Indian culture. This decision reflects the spirit of tolerance that is a deep part of Indian culture.
Question 3) Is this judgment a minority view imposed on public opinion?
Response) It is the basic duty of the courts to protect the rights of minorities being trampled on by the majority. Also, this judgment reflects changes in public opinion. 10 years back we could not have imagined a Union Cabinet Minister openly saying S.377 needs to go or a major Bollywood film openly dealing with homosexuality. Today, we have several ministers on our side and Dostana is one of the biggest hits of last year. The court’s decision is in line with the changes in public opinion.
Question 4) This is just about gays, why should anyone else care?
Response) Its a victory for gay rights, but even more its a victory for human rights. This decision accepts the need to respect the basic dignity of all individuals and for people to lead their own lives on their own terms, in their own way. It is a victory for common sense over unreasoning prejudice. That makes it a victory for all Indians.
Question 5) The law was not used anyway, so what will this really change?
Response) The law was definitely used to harass homosexuals. There are plenty of cases of it actually being used in court – and there are even more when the threat of it was used to harass homosexuals. In cities like Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore there are large, well organised blackmail rings that target gay men – already this year we have heard of two cases from Bombay and Bangalore.
And in most of these cases the gay men are too scared to file a police complaint because they know they could be charged under the law just for admitting they were gay. In many cases their blackmailers were the police officers who told them that. This decision is the first step to ending this perversion of the law.
Question 6) What difference will the law make to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS?
Response) Because the law no longer treates homosexuals as criminals it will make it easier for reach them for HIV/AIDS outreach work. It will encourage more gay men to get out of their closets and meet each other in safe surroundings, instead of meeting secretly and quickly, in places where its hard to have safe sex.
We will also have fewer gay men being forced into arranged marriages in which they continue to have same sex relations secretly, get infected, and then often pass on the virus to their wives. The UNAIDS Panel chaired by Dr.Rangarajan has recommended that this law be changed, and now the Delhi High Court has done it.
Question 7) Section 377 was used against Child Sexual Abuse. Will the change in the law mean an increase in that?
Response) Absolutely not! If anything the use of Section 377 against Child Sexual Abuse gets strengthened because the court has removed consensual adult sex from the law, making it more precise and focussed on the real crime that should be addressed. Now there will be no confusion about using Section 377 for cases of child sexual abuse (and male rape).
Question 8) Are you going to ask for Gay Marriage now?
Response) One step at a time! First we needed the law to stop treating us like criminals. Now that the court has made its decision on that, we can start thinking about other changes we would like. But those are other battles, for another date – but just to get started on that we needed to stop being treated as criminals. After this, logically, there are other steps that the law needs to take, for example in allowing a gay couple to take out a home loan, or perhaps get the partner benefits that his company might give. But we we’ll come to them in due course.
Question 9) So what is the next step?
Response) The next step is to party! (If you’re in Mumbai join us at Karma for a special, once only 377 victory party. Special rate of just Rs200 for entry. More details on www.gaybombay.org)