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A long road to equality

I have to say my heart is so happy on hearing this news. I hope fervently that the gay ruling causes a ripple effect, spreading to other parts of India, writes Anoushka Shankar.

entertainment Updated: Jul 03, 2009 19:22 IST
Anoushka Shankar

This week marked a major human rights victory when homosexuality was decriminalised in Delhi. As overdue as changing this law may have been, it is still something to celebrate, and I have to say my heart is so happy on hearing this news. I hope fervently that this ruling causes a ripple effect and spreads to other parts of India.

Having a rule in place that outlawed homosexuality was not just cruel and bigoted, but also useless in any way other than to provide a means to exploit and hurt an entire community. It nullified people’s basic rights to protection and safety against hate-crimes.

Section 377 can’t even be called outdated, as it commonly has, because in my mind there has been no time in history in which this form of discrimination should have been considered acceptable.

When I think about it, it baffles me that the fight for sexuality-based equality is so far behind other movements against prejudice. Not just in India, mind. There’s a strange coincidence about the timing of the Delhi ruling, which I couldn’t help but notice as I was reading the newspapers from my home in California. This week was also significant in American history, as it marked the 40th anniversary of what’s widely considered the beginning of the civil rights movement for homosexuality in the United States. In 1969, a group of people stood up against police outside of a known gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. The resulting riots led to the birth of the gay liberation movement in America. But with same-sex marriage still illegal in 43 states, there is still so far to go.

Have you ever heard about the “Don’t Ask, Don’'t Tell” law? The United States military has always prohibited anyone of homosexual orientation from joining the army.

When President Clinton came to power he promised to change that, but this law came into effect instead. Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” created as a ‘compromise' in 1993 to help change the law from an express ban on homosexuals, a person can join, but is expressly forbidden to divulge their sexual orientation or do anything that indicates their sexual preference.

The “Don’t Ask” part means they won't be asked about it by superiors without due cause. However, tragically, due cause can be as little as suspicion, and can then cause someone to be dishonourably discharged from military service simply for being who they are.

I’m sharing this information in case anyone is prone to thinking that it’s just this part of the world that has to fight so hard for homosexual rights in today’s day and age. The truth is, any form of bigotry and hatred is backwards, and every country, whether America or India or anywhere else, has a lot of work to do if they are to live up to claims of equality for their citizens.

Is it really too Utopian of me to see equality for all, as a possibility?