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India's LGBT community granted new rights

by Shelby Toth - News Editor
Tue, Sep 18th 2018 05:00 pm
Pride, not prejudice - An Indian supporter (above) of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, took part in a Pride parade in Bhopal, India on Sunday,  July 15, 2018.
Pride, not prejudice - An Indian supporter (above) of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, took part in a Pride parade in Bhopal, India on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

The Indian LGBT community has earned a landmark victory with India’s Supreme Court decision to essentially legalize gay sex. Yet, I still can never find myself celebrating these victories without a sense of sadness coming over me; we win battles, but it’s discouraging to remember that we are at war.

For those who are not aware up until this month, gay sex was illegal in the country of India. According to CNN, Section 377 was the law in question that made any intercourse “against the order of nature” illegal. 

This law was established almost 150 years ago, when the British colonized India, according to The New York Times. The law was briefly overturned in 2009 by a New Delhi court, who at the time ruled that if the sex was consensual, it could not be illegal. Of course it didn’t stick around too long, as various religious groups filed appeals to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturned the New Delhi court’s decision, and the law was reinstated in 2013.

However that all brings us to today, 2018, when the Supreme Court of India has finally realized that LGBT sex is not a criminal act. Not only that, but they’re recognizing that LGBT members are people too.

According to The New York Times, the Supreme Court’s ruling also awarded LGBT Indians full protection under the constitution. While this is a huge deal,  the fact that it has taken the country this long to even give LGBT people full constitutional rights is a depressing fact.

As much as I wish I could revel in the happiness of this ruling, I cannot stop myself from focusing on all the negative realizations this ruling has brought with it.

While this case is monumental and has awarded countless LGBT people freedom they’ve never had before, a change of law never means a change of culture or society. You cannot, and will not, ever change the minds of millions of people at once. I’m not alone in this pessimistic line of thinking, either. 

Yashwinder Singh, a member of a Mumbai-based LGBT rights group known as the Humsafar Trust, spoke to CNN on the topic as well.

“Laws getting passed is one thing but changing society is a big challenge,” Singh said.

Even though it’s been noted the law was not often used on “consenting adults”, according to the BBC, it was still a weapon of fear in the LGBT community in India.

As reported by The New York Times, gays in India would sometimes go without reporting rape and sexual assault, for fear of being charged under Section 377. Police officers would rape people, then threaten to send them to prison if they told anyone. At least now, thanks to the Supreme Court of India, being scared of legal action will—hopefully—be a thing of the past for LGBT people living there.

I know at this point in the article, I’m more than likely just preaching to the choir. But it will never not be crazy to me just how long it has taken major achievements like this to happen. Sure, it’s “20gayteen,” a year which has awarded the community openly gay young adult films, representation in TV shows and LGBT anthems galore, but when it comes to mindset, I have a tough time believing much has changed.

A good thing is there will be a new generation of LGBT youth in India that will grow up never having to deal with the fact that their love is illegal in their country and face legal discrimination from their government. 

These youths will undoubtedly deal with hate and discrimination from adults they are supposed to look up to, and for that, they are already braver than said adults will ever be. However, the mere fact that a gay child is being born right now in India into a more accepting country than their predecessors, is enough to keep up hope.