Gay world: Never been better, but bigger fight ahead
"It was a very special moment when the Delhi high court announced the judgement decriminalising homosexuality. We could stand up to the world and say: Hey, we also count," Gautam Bhan, leading gay activist reminisces the day of the historic judgement two years ago when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down.
A British Raj era law, Section 377 was about making homosexuality and 'unnatural sex' a crime.
Now there is intense expectation among activists and the LGBT community when the Supreme Court takes up the matter for hearing on Monday, with hope that the Delhi high court judgement is upheld by the apex court.
What did these last two years achieve for the community at large?
"There has never been a better time. These last few years have been about victory, validation and visibility," Sumit Baudh, activist and lawyer, summing up the mood.
Victory in the sense of having crossed a legal hurdle, validation in terms of acceptability and much greater visibility with many people with alternate sexually coming out of the closet and a largely responsive media.
"Besides the immense sense of relief, comfort levels have increased everywhere. There has been an explosion of research papers on alternate sexuality, there is much more openness in the government, so the judgement has impacted all spheres," said Ashok Row Kavi, writer and gay activist.
If Baudh and Row Kavi are upbeat, there is a voice of caution too.
"We are not unhappy with the progress but clearly there is a bigger fight ahead and much needs to be done. For the change has been largely in our minds and in the big cities. Not anywhere else," said Lucknow-based Saleem Kidwai, writer and scholar on gay issues.
Rights activist Pramada Menon is more forthright. "India has the most fantastic laws. But has life changed? Nothing has changed. Families are still unwilling to talk of
homosexuality of their members. But change is inevitable and you cannot wish us away."
Menon succinctly articulates the way forward on the need for greater consolidation of forces not only in the world of alternate sexuality but among all marginalized groups. "We need to broaden the identity factor."
Echoing Menon's point of view, Bhan said: "The movement has started happening in the small towns. Question is how to strengthen them." He makes it clear that the fight is not about numbers. "Real progress is made when we fight against all sorts of discrimination."
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