After the Supreme Court verdict criminalising homosexuality, there is anger. And there is love. And it is this love that is going to make sure that the battle against discrimination continues. We are not going gentle into the good night
Nishant Shah/Forbes India
I am neither a legal scholar, nor a historian. There are people far more involved, immersed and informed than I am about the technicalities of the historic judgment that the Supreme Court of India passed on December 11, 2013, revoking the progressive Delhi High Court verdict that held Section 377 of the Indian Penal Court in violation of the rights to freedom, dignity and life enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
While the Supreme Court’s rejection of the Delhi High Court decision marks a dark day in the history of the Indian judiciary, there is no doubt that this is not the end of a fight to protect those on the fringes, those discriminated against systemically, those who are harassed and robbed of their right to live and love. The apex court’s decision might seem like a major setback, but the support and love, the rage and solidarity that it has drawn from expected and unexpected corners is overwhelming.
Apart from the usual suspects—political activists, lawyers, human rights advocates and the LGBTQ community in India—actors, politicians, political leaders, media, writers, creative artists, and indeed, the common person on the internet with a Twitter handle have called this judgment a travesty of justice and a violation of some of the most fundamental constitutional rights. There are tears. There is anger. And in the midst of it all, there is love. And it is this love that is going to make sure that the battle against discrimination continues. We are definitely not going gentle into the good night.
The battle does not stop for those who are already fighting, sometimes in the political arena and through activism, but just as often quietly, desperately, trying to live and survive even as their lives are invalidated by a legal apparatus that upholds the laws of a master we drove away in 1947. They are people who have lived precariously, experienced the sheer terror of being a de facto criminal, not for a choice that they make, but for who they are.
For them, even if the verdict had been all that we had hoped for, social acceptance and a life of dignity were still going to be a struggle. But legal support would have been a first step towards helping build a ground for radical transformation and change. It would have helped not only the people who inhabit small metropolitan pockets of Pink Power, but the millions of people in the closet, trapped in desperate heterosexual marriages, abandoned by their friends and families, fired from their jobs and bullied by the policing apparatus, because they are criminal without the right to defend themselves. And hence we will continue to fight, teach, educate and shout with our bodies and voices to review a judge’s decision to uphold a draconian colonial legacy.
I have to write, then, of the people who are either celebrating this judgment under the misguided idea of upholding traditional structures and family values, or those who feel that these are not their battles. And the only way forward is to help them understand why this judgment is important and, further, why we need to contest it and overthrow it. Frequently, they will be the same people who don’t understand why we talk about rape within marriage or women’s rights to their own bodies. They might have joined the populist wave of demanding death penalties for the perpetrators of the horrifying Delhi bus gang-rape not because they thought there was anything wrong with it—but only because they wouldn’t want something like that to happen to people like them. In other words, there is going to be a huge majority that is going to remain silent or apathetic towards this judgment, because it is not about them, and it is about ‘those’ people I write today: Because it is necessary to talk about what this judgment means to us as a country, to us as citizens, and to us as human beings.
When the reality that we live in becomes too unbearable, it is time to resort to fantasies. In one of my favourite fantasy texts, Terry Pratchett’s Carpe Jugulum, Granny Weatherwax—she should be appointed the human moral compass of our times—says, “There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.” And there is no better way of understanding the outrage that the Supreme Court judgment has produced.
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