In a historic judgement, the Supreme Court has decriminalized sexual relations between consenting homosexual adults. It struck down a 158-year-old controversial provision of Section 377 that made illegal "carnal intercourse against the order of nature". I was super-thrilled to hear this statement from Justice Indu Malhotra: "History owes an apology to the members of this (LGBT) community and their families for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries."
I'm personally thrilled to hear this jhakaas news.
I had an open wedding function with my husband Vinh last December at my hometown, Yavatmal, in Maharashtra, and that got a lot of media attention. It became a popular topic of discussion and thanks to the way NDTV and the rest of the media covered it, a lot of that coverage was very positive. What was even more encouraging was the amazing support this media coverage received from the public in terms of social media likes/shares etc. One of these posts on NDTV had over 95% positive reaction from the general public. A lot of my gay friends were completely shocked with these numbers. I was glad to be doing my part in pushing the gay rights movement forward in India.
But there is a long road ahead for LGBT rights in India to mature. Non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression, same-gender partner benefits, gay marriage, adoptions and many others are the fights ahead. But I'm optimistic that these will come sooner than what it took for the western world.
This morning, I shared the news with my boss Eric and other colleagues and they all shared my excitement and congratulated me. Despite being from a humble middle class background from a rural small town, I feel very privileged at this point in my life because the social status I've earned makes acceptance by relatives/friends easier. The struggle for acceptance is a lot harder for community members with fewer means. Decriminalization would certainly be of a big help to these most vulnerable sections of the society.
After my wedding, a lot of young, gay men reached out to me. Many of them struggled with finding a suitable partner or if they found anyone, they struggled to sustain the relationship. Many talked about finding a boyfriend abroad hoping that would solve all their problems. However, these are universal problems; it's hard to find a suitable spouse even for straight people. Arranged marriages make things easier for many straight people. Wish there was anything like arranged marriages for gay people. The stigma imposed by 377 added an additional layer of complexity for the Indian gay community. Many chose to live under the radar, leading secret lifestyles that family and friends did not know about. This double identity also creates trust-building issues when you start dating someone. Once the relationship is on, keeping it under the wraps means no one will step in to resolve the differences when the relationship experiences strain and misunderstandings. Even if both are financially independent, justifying moving out of a family becomes a difficult topic with family and on the other side, finding a rental place and keeping it also had challenges. Hope these artificial barriers will soon go away for my LGBT friends in India.
Doing away with Section 377 earlier would certainly have eased the pain and struggle that my parents and I had to go through. Perhaps I would not have suffered with depression during my IIT days.
I'm looking to adopt a child. A single man is not allowed to adopt a child in India and this puts restrictions on me. I would have certainly adopted a kid from India if it was legally possible for me to do so. There are so many children who needs a loving and caring family. Why are we putting such artificial restrictions and robbing those children of a brighter future?
Dear Supreme Court justices, please get rid of these unnecessary shackles, so you do not have to apologize yet again.
To the brighter and colorful future of India!!!
(US-based techie Hrishikesh Sathawane married his Vietnamese partner, Vinh, last year in his hometown in Maharastra's Yavatmal.)
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