Thursday, July 2, 2009

Historic Judgment

"Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are" (Chief Justice, Delhi High Court).

In a historic judgment today, the Delhi High Court ruled Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional in so far as it criminalizes consensual sex between adults in private. With the HC verdict being applicable throughout the country, India became the 127th country in the world to legalize gay sex. Hurrah!

It might have taken the world's largest democracy this long to review and revisit an old archaic law enacted during the British colonial rule, but as they say, better late than never. There were many who said this day would never come, but it did and how. The legal bench attacked prejudices against homosexuality and said, "Moral indignation, howsoever strong, is not a valid basis for overriding individuals’ fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. Constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it be the majoritarian view." It also added, that "(T)here is almost unanimous medical and psychiatric opinion that homosexuality is not a disease or disorder (...) Homosexuality was removed from the diagnostic manual of mental disorders in 1973 after reviewing evidence (and) In 1992, the WHO removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness (...)."

Read the full text of the Delhi HC judgment (pdf.) here. Also, the debate which until now was doing rounds in select circles only, is now picking up pan-India on whether or not a legal provision can change societal perspective. The question being asked is, "can the HC verdict change social attitude towards gays?" I think this question is hugely misplaced for three reasons:
1. It is hasty, seemingly looking for quick overnight solutions.
2. It positions society at the receiving end of law and forgets, that social and legal are in fact, dialectically related.
3. It assumes change as some one time Aha! moment and forgets that it is procedural and already taking place, however slow and/or subtle.

A progressive law empowers not just once, but over and over again by:
1. Safeguarding the rights of LGBT identified/questioning individuals. This further allows them to put a face to alternate sexuality and challenge any ignorant imagination of it as immoral or sin.
2. Making outreach for HIV/AIDS prevention/protection/safe practices education possible. This is huge in a country like India where limited health care and social stigmatization have ruined the lives of many.
Let us view the revised law as a start and a step in the right direction. Let us believe that it will act as a catalyst for change at all levels: a change whose pace might ultimately be determined only by increased visibility.



About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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