Members of India’s LGBTI community are cautiously optimistic, as the nation’s Supreme Court formally begins the process of reviewing the country’s colonial-era outright ban on homosexuality.
India which is one of the worlds largest nations, and the world largest democracy, continues to lag behind in LGBTI rights and continues to outlaw consensual same-sex relations, with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
However, in January 2018, the nation’s Supreme Court announced that it was preparing to re-look at its 2013 decision in upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”
In addition to a number of organisations petitioning the court to repeal the section at the centre of the controversy, numerous high profile individuals including dancer Navtej S Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur, have also joined the campaign in progressing India’s human rights.
Speaking with the Guardian, Anjali Gopalan, founder of the Naz Foundation said the momentum had built up and they had a clutch of petitions from people from all walks of life.
“We have celebrities giving their personal testimony,” Gopalan said.
“Then we have had an important ruling recently by the courts upholding privacy. And we have seen a shift in recent years, more people coming out to take a stand. The gates have opened, as it were, and you can’t close them now.”
Despite previously being repealed for a four year period by the Delhi High Court in 2009. Section 377 made a comeback in 2013 when the Supreme Court shocked the world overturning the lower court’s ruling and asserted that the ban on homosexuality was not unconstitutional.
Despite widespread support in the repeal of the section, decriminalising homosexuality is being strongly opposed by conservative and religious groups in India, including politician and MP Subramanian Swamy, who has called for Section 377 to stay.
Speaking with news agency ANI, Swamy concluded that, homosexuality “is not a normal thing. We cannot celebrate it. It’s against Hindutva (Hinduness). We should invest in medical research to see if it can be cured.”
Swamy instead insists that the law is needed to stop gay people from “flaunting” their sexuality in public.