Earlier this year, the TIME magazine included two Indian women lawyers - Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju - in its list of 100 most influential people of 2019. The two lawyers led a long fight against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a controversial British-era law that banned consensual gay sex. About a year after the controversial law was partially struck down by the Supreme Court in a historic ruling when the court overruled its own 2013 decision, the two women have come out as a couple.
Ms Katju and Ms Guruswamy, in a recent interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, talked about the challenges which they faced in the legal fight because they "didn't just argue the case together but they were also a couple".
Their fight began when the top court upheld Section 377, the 157-year-old colonial era law, in 2013, Ms Guruswamy, 44, said.
"The loss in 2013 was a deeply personal loss and also loss as lawyers. It's one thing to have an all-colonial era. But it's another thing for a law of the colonial era being upheld in contemporary times. It is not nice to be a criminal who has to go back to the court as a lawyer to argue other cases," she said in the interview.
"That was when we decided that we would never let the LGBT Indians be invisible in any courtroom," Ms Guruswamy added.
Ms Katju shared how difficult it was to find litigants for the legal fight. "In 2014, 15 and 16, we were putting this case together. Being a gay was criminal in India so it was difficult to find litigants," she said.
"In all the post-colonial countries, I think our governments have to understand that these are not our laws, these were not our cultures... and we have to understand why we have not been proactive in bringing forth law reforms and expanding freedoms. Surely, decolonization must mean that," Ms Guruswamy stressed during the interview.
The September 6 Supreme Court ruling on Section 377 was a major leap for gay rights when the top court said the ban on consensual sex was "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary".
The two lawyers, who called the Section 377 verdict a "personal win", highlighted how activists in Sri Lanka and Malaysia are now looking at how this judgement could be used to overturn the anti-gay laws in their own countries.
Social media users praised the two lawyers for coming out as a couple. "Congrats. Personal is indeed political," wrote a user.
I do not know whether this is the first video, where both of you (@MenakaGuruswamy and @arundhatikatju) are coming out loud and proud as partners. I must say "Congrats". Personal is indeed political. ????????????️???? https://t.co/2gnkrCYHkX— John Samuel ????️???? (@jsamwrites) July 18, 2019
Another user, Ashok Row Kavi, wrote: "Knew of it before they came out. Congrats you wonderful women."
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