Section 377: a push back into the closet?

It's the day after International Human Rights Day (December 10). And it's five days to the completion of a year after a brutal act of utmost inhumanity (December 16 gang-rape). It is also the day when our respected judiciary resorted to criminalise a good share of India's population by re-establishing a 'medieval' section in the Indian Penal Code.

Whatever happened to Human Rights? Is it the government that controls its people's bedroom preferences and whips anyone who questions its moral authority?

Wading through a crowd dressed in black at Jantar Mantar, I found myself reliving my teenage confusions. A curious reporter, after asking a few important questions, signed off with, "You are a lesbian, aren't you?" Am I lesbian, am I straight? Wait, let me tell you first that I'm human and what happened this morning was that I was told that I wasn't.

As a tired Anjali Gopalan said, "Black day for all of us where we have been set back 100 years." Anjali works for NAZ Foundation, which is the organisation that brought about hope in the form of the Delhi high court 2009 ruling decriminalising same-sex love.

Protesters wave their banners of pride (HT Photo)

Yes, shout out slogans, we did. And wave satrangi flags, we did. But to what avail? Sure we're encouraging more people to walk out of the closet. But with Section 377 punishing us by making us wear the black, we're being asked to jump right back in, and preferably pull someone of the opposite sex along. Because if one were to believe Ramdev, that'd 'fix' us and bring 'natural' order to the world. However, activist Shaleen Rakesh isn't ready to give up yet. "Even if the country wants me to, I won't go back into the closet," said a vehement Rakesh.

So while transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi mocked the parochial by stating loudly, "Do I lose my lipstick or my kohl to satisfy their needs? Do I drop my saree to accept their draconian law? No! The blood flowing in my body is as red as my lipstick, neither is any less important," there were others who silently sobbed, resting their heads on their loved ones.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi on the stage (HT Photo)

When did love become illegal?

As I see it, if one day those in power were to find themselves 'criminally' interested in somebody, they'd probably casually blame it on the object of their affection. No it's not an absurd claim, remember the last time you were told to not dress 'provocatively' because some lech on the streets might consume you whole?

That man on the streets is criminal. Consent is not.
Gautam Bhan, one of the organisers of the protest, reminded India why she can't mourn Nelson Mandela's death just yet. "You can't celebrate Mandela's life and insult his legacy," said Bhan as a faceless individual held up a sign that stated a similar sentiment. Ironically, a lost bystander enquired, "Is this a tribute to Mandela?"

Yes ma'am, this is a tribute to every man, woman and child existing or having existed on this planet. Section 377 has not only demonised the LGBT community in this country, but has also created a space to kill humanity. By illegalising basic needs for existence for so many, our legal system has proved its lack of human worth.

So I say, let's face the water cannons, for we must prepare ourselves for the worst.

(Views are personal.)


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