Chitra Palekar, a noted film-maker, shares her opinion on the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377:
My first reaction to the recent Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex, was shock and anger. The verdict turned our children criminals overnight. For what? They are just normal people going about their daily lives and suddenly they become criminals in the eyes of the law. Is it not unjust? Is it not humiliating?
What happens to the Constitution of India? Does it not promise equality and non-discrimination to all its citizens? Does it not confer the Right to Privacy on its citizens? And is not the Supreme Court supposedly the protector of these Rights? Do our children lose all their Fundamental and Constitutional Rights merely because of their sexual orientation?
The judgement says that the number of people jailed under Section 377 is very small. But I ask, when due to fear of this archaic law, most homosexuals remained underground over the last 150 years, can such statistics have any meaning?
The police (as well as the people in favour of the Supreme Court verdict) say that they hardly use this law to arrest members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community. But that is not true. People from this community have given testimonies of the harassment they have been subjected to.
Besides, whether they are arrested or not, whether they are harassed or not, the fact is that the LGBTI community will now be looked upon as criminals, And I, a mother, have strong objection to my child being deemed "criminal" even in mere theory.
The parties who wanted the Delhi High Court's landmark judgement of July 2009 struck down said gay sex was "unnatural". Our lawyers submitted several petitions, medical proof and affidavits to the court citing how gay sex was not only natural, but that a law to protect the homosexuals and their rights would in fact help curb deadly, infectious diseases such as HIV-AIDS. I wish the judges had given careful consideration to all these documents. The judgement shows that they did not.
I am the proud mother of a lesbian, who came out to me almost 20 years ago. She shared with me how as a young teenager, when she became aware of her different sexuality, she had felt terribly confused and isolated due to the "silence" surrounding the subject of homosexuality. Despite being close to us, her parents, she did not know how we would react. She was apprehensive, disturbed. It was not this honest admission of hers that shocked me but the sudden awareness of my own failure to protect and support her at a crucial juncture. I had failed my daughter by taking it for granted that she was heterosexual.
I soon realized how this issue had largely been ignored in India. There was no open debate at all. Maybe, signing the parents' petition demanding justice for this community is a small way in which I am making up to her and to the rest of the LGBTI community.
My daughter is fortunate that she was accepted by her family and friends for what she was. Nobody shunned her. But not many are as privileged as her. They have to face humiliation and harassment as there is no law to protect them.
I believe that it is a fundamental human right of people to love whoever they wish to. It is this Right of Love that the LGBTI demand. How can the state or the courts say whom one should love and whom one should not?
As I see it, some good things may come out of the recent Supreme Court verdict. The sections of society who believe in the Constitution of our liberal, democratic country, will join in the fight for the fundamental rights of the LGBTI community which will no longer be isolated. More and more members of this community will protest by coming "OUT". The Movement for Gay Rights will only get much stronger.
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