September 09, 2018

One people, one love

I recall a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. It was somewhere in 2013, when the repeal about Section 377 was brutally rejected by the Supreme Court. As someone who had long since come out, my friend was distraught at the tyrannical nature the law had reassumed.

“It is as if we were granted a morsel of food, which was then snatched from right beneath our nose,“ he complained. “What kind of mockery is this?!”

“I understand,” I said. I wanted him to know I was empathetic about the situation.

But the moment, I said that, he turned livid.

“No, you don’t. How can you even say that?" he cried. "You’re straight. You will never understand.”
I was taken aback by the sudden outburst. I had not expected that response from him.
How dare he, I thought! I wanted to tell him it wasn’t fair, painting everybody with the same brush.
I wanted to tell him that just because some people choose to be ignorant idiots about the consensual feelings of others (which is not even their business in the first place), it did not give him the right to assume everyone had the same shitty attitude.
I wanted to yell at him for being an asshole and for insulting me, for making me feel I belong to that intellectually backward section of society, that thinks they can tell someone how to love and who to love. But I kept mum. I knew he was hurting.

I kept silent and bore the brunt of his anger. I was mad at myself for being part of a society that is ineffective in protecting someone’s constitutional rights.
I heard him fume and ramble against the injustice, all the while not daring to offer consolation of any sort because anything said at that time would seem like empty words used to placate. Why? Because like he said, I "wouldn't understand."

Cut to present day, and the Supreme Court has finally passed its verdict. Section 377 has been scraped off. And homosexuality has been decriminalized.
After 157 years.

For the uninitiated (although if you are, shame on you, but read on anyway), this law was first established during the British rule in 1931 as a law to protect against sodomy. However, slowly and gradually, everything and anything other than procreative peno-vaginal sex was considered 'against the law of nature' and started being included under this law, thereby applying a ban on freedom of expression for consensual love as well.

In 2009, however, the Delhi high court had scraped off portions of the section as constitutional with respect to gay sex. However, this was not to last. In December 2013, the case was repealed to the Supreme Court and the judgement was overturned, stating that repealing section 377 should be left to the Parliament and not the judiciary. In 2016, a petition was submitted by the Naz foundation and others to be reviewed by a five member constitutional bench.
The struggle was on. The stakes were high. The result was unpredictable.

Finally, after a a tortuous civil struggle of seven years and a social struggle of 157 years, the Supreme Court has finally passed its verdict in favor of the ban. Much fanfare and a lot of atrocities later, Section 377 was finally struck down (in the context of consensual homosexual relationships). This meant that sex between two consenting adults of the same sex will no longer be a crime. It also meant that the LGBTQ community would no longer have to be embarrassed of their identity or fear that they'd be considered a threat to society. They would now be able to enjoy an 'unbiased' health care, employment, even basic facilities like housing etc that they they had been previously denied.

(Below is a video from 'The Quint', explaining the judgement)

It was not just a win for the LGBTQ community, but a victory for every Indian who had ever dreamt of a free important step towards a truly liberated nation, free of oppression, where nobody could tell us what to eat, how to dress, or who to love.

However, for every humanist who celebrated the decision, there were three bigots who turned their noses and frowned at the idea of two people being able to express consensual love regardless of gender. While some passed preposterous comments, some transformed into the harbingers of procreation. But who cared?!! This was a massive win, a well deserved victory. And no amount of bigotry or pig-headedness could rain over the rainbow parade.

I called the same friend again yesterday, the one who said I couldn’t understand. We were in touch of course, but after that one discussion way back in 2013, there was some tension looming between us
(perhaps because he was angry at the system, and I was angry at the fact that I couldn't do much but write articles citing logical reasons to scrape off a draconian law, knowing fully well it was futile, that hate, like love, understands no logic)

Yesterday, after what felt like ages, I picked up the phone and called him. We spoke about the journey. He was elated with the verdict. I was happy for him.
And that was enough to clear the air between us. Still, I confessed that his remark had offended me and that it was not fair to make such generalized sweeping statements.

“I know, silly," he said. "You really think I would rant to you if I thought you judged me from being different,” he said.
After a second's pause, he said, "But being non-judgemental is also like being in the minority, no? Soon we might have a law against it. And it will take more than 157 years to pull that one down."

We both giggled. But I could feel the bitterness in his voice. He was right.  A constitutional change was not enough. Our society needed to change (its mindset) too.

“Change is on the way," I said. "There is hope now."
“Yes.” he sighed. "We live in hope."

We spoke for a little more, and then ended the conversation promising to keep in touch. It was only later that I noticed my cell phone was flooded with constant messages from groups that I, due to some bad karma, were still a part of despite exiting a few times. (They keep adding me back, and I keep playing dead there)
There was a hustle of activity on some otherwise dormant groups as well. Every group had one or other meme about the verdict being circulated. Most of them were in poor taste and reflected how mulish the society still was towards welcoming a constitutional change, leave alone a social one.

Would Section 377 in the minds of the public ever be scraped off?

Words of a nihilist friend from long ago crossed my mind.
"We live in hope, and die in fact."

Nevertheless, a small beam of sunlight is sometimes enough to light a room.
So here's to the eternal optimist in us. Here's to the fighter, the dreamer, the lover. Here's to the one that wishes and dreams and more importantly, believes, that  'One people, one love' will become a reality very soon...

I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with BlogChatter.


Akshata Ram said...

The social stigma will take long to go. The jokes we crack around gay people, the way Bollywood depicts gay relationships alladd to the misconceptions. Hoping we can raise our kids right though and we see thr desired change

Unknown said...

There is ray of hope and I wish we can make this place better for everyone

Manpreet said...

That's such a beautiful post... I think you did your part as much as you could... maybe, somebody who's still uncomfortable with the decision will read this post and would finally decide to change... maybe... hope.

India has notorious ability of contorting the laws passed, intially with goodwill and for right reasons. People start misusing the law and soon, it becomes a regular practice. Think of how laws against dowry practice are being misused... How quota system is being misused...

The fact that now people will get to live with their true identity without being afraid of the law is amazing. And I hope just like this... the social stigma attached to this in the country would also go away.

sneha jain said...

Every human being has a right to live in their own terms

Humaira said...

Amazing and informative post. This is the best initiative by the Supreme Court. Great thoughts.

Jhilmil said...

Such a wonderful post, it raised so many qyquestio and answered few.

Adi's Journal said...

It is so true that you live in hope and die in fact. it was really an interesting read about a decision on article 377 and the social struggle related to it. Keep writing...

MeenalSonal said...

Your post is very informative, though I knew about Section 377, your detailed post made few doubts cleared,
And yes hope is the only way to rise.

MeenalSonal from AuraOfThoughts
#MyFriendAlexa #MeenalSonalReads

charu said...

This is the start for better and bigger changes that this country need!

Bushra said...

That's very strong and profound step taken by the govt and now it's time for us to support This with open heart.
#myfriendalexa #dewreads

Forbabynmommy said...

This is nice share and informative post..nice step taken by supreme Court

Veena Haridas said...

We live in hope and die in fact.

- that absolutely sums up every bit of awfulness we live in. From taking too long, to never truly understanding what people who have to live among such blockheads, have to actually go through - it truly sucks big time! Amazing post Pri!

Dipika said...

This is just the beginning my dear friend, the biggest issue here is social acceptability. Law says you cannot discriminate against anyone due to his/her religion and caste. But I can give names of scores of housing societies around which are not comfortable renting out flats to a specific community.
There are many such instances of social stigma against not so gay people too. But at the end of the day - we have to decide, is this social outcry worth it.

Pri said...

@ Akshata
Yeah! The image Bollywood creates about homosexuality is really insensitive and way off the mark. Cinema is a powerful tool and it should be used responsibly. But alas!
Hope our future generations see a positive change...become the positive change!

Pri said...

@ the mum story
Amen to that!

Pri said...

@ Manpreet
Indeed, Manpreet. Every law can be used or abused. But I think the SC has wisely stated the conditional terms in this case.
Decriminalizing sexual expression between two consenting adults is the best thing that has happened in decades.
Lets hope social acceptance is the next best thing that happens :)

Pri said...

@ Sneha
Indeed! Now if only more people thought that way...

Pri said...

@ Humaira
Thanks Humaira. I agree. The victory is 157 years too late, but a reason to celebrate nevertheless.
We are one step closer towards an inclusive society. :)

Pri said...

@ Jhilmil
Thanks Jhilmil. I hope the questions this post managed to raise in your mind find their answers soon :)

Pri said...

@ Aditya
Thanks Aditya. My post does not even begin to sum up the struggle and persecution faced by the LGBT community. We couldn't even imagine the irrational hatred they have to put up with.
We can only try to lessen their pain by supporting them in their cause.

Pri said...

@ MeenalSonal
Indeed! Hope is the only silver lining there is to life...
Thanks for taking the time to read my views! :)

Pri said...

@ Charu
Let's clink our glasses and cross our fingers to that! :)

Pri said...

@ All about the woman
Indeed! An open heart (and mind) is all we need to make the world a better place :)

Pri said...

@ Forbabynmommy
Yes, and it was about time! :)

Pri said...

@ Veena
You said it, Veens! It's a dark cloud we are living in. But lets just believe reading down Section 377 was the first glimpse to the silver lining.
It's always great to see your comments here. We go back a long way! :)

Pri said...

@ Dipika
Yes Dipika. It is a social outcry that eventually leads to a change and then a revolution. Silence is considered a sign of weakness in today's world.
As for exclusion of communities, I agree with you. But this win is a step in that very direction. It is a cry of support for every marginalized society in India. It is a hope for every kind of discrimination.
Homosexuality is not a petty issue. The LGBTQ community has to face persecution on all fronts, sometimes even among their own family. They do not need any more of it.

The Sc judgement is a massive step forward in the struggle for equal rights---goes to say that justice is still alive!

Tina said...

love always wins and there should be no condition on love. This is a historic judgement though the social stigma will take time to go.

Iram said...

It's kind a taboo subject which is the last topic people discuss about. But with social media and court verdict , I guess people are opening up. Let's see where it goes..

Priya Bajpai said...

Good riddance, indeed!
I wonder why it took so long. I know the fight doesn't end here. Nevertheless, it's a start.

Esha Chakraborty said...

The judgement is a huge leap in the right direction but I think the struggle is far from over...I still see people who freak out at the very mention of LGBT... Hope we like minded people are able to bring out a change in societal mindsets as well..

Mayura Amarkant said...

This is one of the best opinion pieces on the #377Verdict. Written directly from the heart. Must read for everyone! Thank you for writing this.
#MyFriendAlexa #MayuraReads

Anonymous said...

It's a small step to solve a larger problem of acceptance. Hope we are heading in the right direction as a society now that 377 is scrapped.

Unknown said...

A well written piece. Yes, the society and mindset will take a long time to change, but it is getting better with every generation. There is a long way to go but the first step is always crucial :)

Pri said...

@ Tina
True! Maybe in time, social acceptance will be attained too ...

Pri said...

@ Iram
For our country to become truly liberated and our society to become truly progressive, all taboos must be lifted. All myths must be busted!

Pri said...

@ Priya
Yes. And a good start it is.
Delayed, but nonetheless good!

Pri said...

@ Esha
The judgement is a sign of good beginnings. Social change starts with you and me. :)

Pri said...

@ Mayura
Thank you, Mayura. I feel deeply for marginalized groups of any type, who often owing to their minority status become unnecessary targets of persecution and hatred.
We, the educated thinking generation of today, need to stand united and wipe out this kind of bigoted mentality. Because if we do not watch out for each other, who will!

Pri said...

@ Anonymous
True that! The issue of acceptance is like that submerged iceberg, the tip of which is only seen.
Nevertheless, the greatest distances are often covered in small steps :)

Pri said...

@ Unknown
Thank you.
I couldn't agree more. The fight for equal rights is always tough. But hope springs eternal!