Sonal Giani, activisit with the Humsafar Trust, which fights for transgenders
I am delighted. This decision will bring in much-needed relief against the
extortion and blackmail that LGBTs face from the police, criminal gangs
and people from the LGBT community who claim to help them, and then
The right message has gone out that the Supreme Court wants a bigger
bench to debate the issue before reaching a conclusion. I am happy that the
apex court is taking cognizance of all the wrongs happening with the LGBT
community ever since it passed a judgment (on December 11, 2013) scrapping the Delhi high court decision that decriminalized Section 377.
At least now there will be a larger bench debating the issue, compared to
the closed door ruling that happened last time. We expect the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to debate the issue threadbare.
Our case is very, very, strong insofar as our demand for our Constitutional
rights is concerned. It’s the job of the SC to uphold our Constitutional rights.
I feel a little bit of relief now that the SC has taken cognizance of the curative petition; it will deter the blackmailers and the extortionists. It has given
the community a bit of hope and confidence. The ones who were earlier
scared to report such threats and blackmail would at least now fearlessly
report them to the police or come to us for assistance.
At least, now that the matter has become subjudice till the five-judge
bench gives its decision, we can argue with the cops and stop harassment.
I have not faced such threats personally, but I have helped people who
have faced this kind of harassment.
‘This is our
India’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community
sees a great ray of hope in the Supreme Court’s decision to
refer the curative petition re-examining its judgment of
December 11, 2013, which had overturned the
Delhi high court judgment of 2009 that had
decriminalised Section 377. They speak up.
How do you see the Supreme Court decision on Sec 377, considering it
had said in its 2013 verdict that it was up to Parliament to rescind it?
It’s fantastic because curative petitions have a success rate of 0.38 percent. The very fact that this curative petition has been admitted by the
court is itself a giant progressive step.
Secondly, the reopening of the petition shows that there was something that was flawed in (the earlier) Supreme Court judgment (of
2013), and this means another step forward.
The third step which one must note is that they are constituting a five-member bench very cleverly, since the more the members on a bench
the seriousness is more and there are bigger chances of success.
Why do you think, we as a society, have been unable to give equal rights
to the LGBT community?
This is a much wider subject than just Section 377.
More than seven states in our country have banned sex education in
schools through legislative action. It shows how our mind is closing down. There are sexual behavioral studies of college students which say things like ‘oral sex is kissing.’ If this
is the level of sexual awareness, what do you expect in a society?
You have been fighting police harassment of LGBTs because of Sec 377…
Yes, that is so because extortion and blackmail are happening through Sec 377.
Yesterday I was on a TV debate where (former Delhi additional commissioner of police)
Amod Kanth said, ‘This law has been used in very few cases, why are you people worried?’
My answer to him was, ‘If there are very few cases, then why do you need this law? If
you are misusing it, then you reform it or throw it out.’
Do you think Parliament should’ve brought in a bill instead of leaving this to the courts?
If our members of Parliament are that backward, so un-progressive and homophobic
and don’t want to deal with the misogyny of people like Sharad Yadav
of the JD-U (Janata Dal-United), then how do you expect them to
take a progressive look at homosexuality? This political class has lost
all its moorings. It has no concept about our culture.
One Hindu Mahasabha woman told me on a television debate that
next you will be doing it with animals. I told her go to the Khajuraho
temples, see how they show sex with animals there.
The only thing I find wrong there is that you have not taken the permission of the animals (laughs).
Otherwise, consenting adults in private, what is your problem? She
said, ‘You want to do it in public.’
I told her I am 70 years old now and you expect me to accept any-
body having sex on the roads? Even straight couples are not allowed
to display their love on the roads, you think gay people want to be
given that permission?’
Again and again we are saying that Sec 377 should be read down to say ‘consenting sex
between adults in private.’ This is the phrase we want to put in and it should be outside
the purview of Sect 377. But this doesn’t go into their minds.
Has any political party supported you openly?
None of them. Aam Aadmi Party said yes, yes, but they did not put it in their manifesto.
The Congress also said they are supporting us, but they did not.
The day they know we are a 30, 40 million strong community, they’ll open up slowly.
We had a meeting with the BJP’s (Bharatiya Janata Party) Mumbai chief, Ashish
Shelar. He was horrified to see how middle-class children were being harassed through
Sec 377. He said, ‘We need to talk about this to our central command.’
— Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Harish Iyer: His mother had posted an advertisement in newspapers seeking a groom for him
It is a good sign. At least they haven’t thrown it out of the window
lock, stock and barrel. This decision gives us hope.
If the five-judge bench rejects the curative petition, we will think it
is a longer battle for our freedom. This is our freedom struggle and
just because the walk gets longer, we won’t stop walking. Our struggle for freedom won’t end there. We will then have to approach the
lawmakers to legislate and decriminalize LGBTs. That (the decrimi-nalization) will happen one day.
Sumit Pawar, LGBT activist
It is a positive step. This decision has further opened the window
for debate with those opposed to the rights of the LGBT community.
If they reject it, we will again begin from scratch. That is what we
had prepared for. We will collectively strategize if this curative petition is rejected.
In the NALSA case (National Legal Services Authority vs the Union of India), the Supreme Court had affirmed the Constitutional rights and freedoms of transgenders as the ‘third gender’. That had given us hope. This new decision is another step in the right direction.
We don’t want to encroach upon the rights of other people. What
we are asking for is that we be accepted as human beings and normal beings. Give us the same Constitutional rights that you have.
Suraj Iyer, LGBT activist
The good news is that the
Supreme Court hasn’t closed
the doors on us. They opened
that little window of hope
that we can take solace in.
I am very hopeful about the
future of the LGBT community in India. We will get our
rights as normal citizens of
India and enjoy those rights
as openly and fearlessly as
you and others do.
The road ahead is a long
one. We cannot expect the
Supreme Court to work very
fast; we can’t force the
Supreme Court to decide in
our favor. We will put forth
our views and keep fighting
for our rights, whatever the
five-judge bench decides. It is
a long march.
— As told to Prasanna Zore
Ashok Row Kavi: Journalist and one of India’s most vocal LGBT activists