On 11th of December 2013, many of us in India were rendered criminal by the Supreme Court of India, which upheld Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, criminalising “sexual acts against the order of nature”. It also overturned the Delhi High Court Vertict in 2009, which recognized this as a struggle for the right to life and dignity making consensual sexual acts punishable by up to ten years in prison.
The law in its current form is firmly opposed to the core values and principles of democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, access to food, education, health and shelter and gender equality outlined in the Commonwealth Charter and the right to life and dignity written in the Constitution of India. The court has declared the LGBT community a “miniscule minority” whose rights are not worthy of consideration and abdicated responsibility to the parliament to make an amendment.
Political parties respond to majoritarian views and are conservative in their approach. The separation of powers as outlined in the Commonwealth Charter entrusts the Judiciary with the critical function of protecting minority rights and ensuring that the rights outlined in the constitution are protected for all citizens without discrimination. The opposition party, which according to polls is likely to come to power in 2014, has taken a clear stand against homosexuality terming it “unnatural” and “against Indian Culture” leaving little hope for legislative action.
The adverse judgment has not shaken our resolve but brought us together in our struggle. A Global Day of Rage against this judgment inspired a collective protest in 33 cities across the world and has brought together activists and civil society organisations from across the country together in the dialogue and action against 377. Criminalisation of homosexuality, legitimizes discrimination, state and social violence and furthers homophobia and the immediate need is to create support systems for ‘out’ individuals who might face the brunt of this move.
Human rights and dignity cannot be held hostage to the religious, moral or any other personal attitudes of any section of the population. The right to live with dignity and equality and the right to privacy and consensual sex between adults is written in the Indian Constitution. All of us who are trying to contribute to creating a nation that is able to ensure that these rights are granted and secured have faith in the constitution and hope that it will be upheld by Indian people, Indian values and the Indian Courts.