One year of section 377 verdict

– Anjali Shekhawat

On Sept 6 2018, the Supreme Court of India had scraped off article 377 by declaring it irrational and unconstitutional and giving way to consensual homosexual sex between adults. This landmark decision was applauded and celebrated across nation for its progressive nature and for keeping up with minority rights which also garnered positive global attention. This verdict not only ensured the dignity of life for LGBTQ+ but also equal opportunities for all.

This month marks one year of section 377 which now looks like a success story as the ground realities have validated. It has opened the door to many identities which were so far closeted and ‘tabooed’. Today there are powerful narratives all across the country from various socio-economic backgrounds which have further helped to sensitize the people around and spread awareness by encouraging a conversation. However one cannot overlook that there is still a significant conservative, narrow minded set up and that a legal change may not necessarily mean a paradigm shift in attitude. It will in fact take time for people to wrap their head around the idea of gay sex, these are the same people who consider even menstruation as taboo and thus the process is time taking and uphill. But let’s dedicate this time to look upon some stories for better understanding of sexualities, preference, and identity.

Now what we need to understand here is that not each of these identities and stories come from protected and privileged position. One such story being the story of Rani Kinnar, India’s first 5-star rated transgender cab driver. Rani from Odisha used to beg on footpaths for livelihood but was determined to rise from poverty. It was then Rani started to drive auto-rickshaw in 2016. But the attempt was futile as people were averse to the idea of transgender driver as they would get scared and avoided her auto. Cut to, a year later when she was introduced to cab driving, Rani was driving Uber cabs. Nothing changed for her as people still cancelled on her as her bio reflected ‘Transgender’ as well as the narrowness of the society. It is only in the recent times that there is a shift in the mind-set. Today Rani Kinnar has flourished in her profession and has experienced more inclusivity then ever before.

The next power couple had shaken the country into inclusivity when they came out as a couple in July 2019. Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhanti Katju had challenged Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and worked together in the case that decriminalised consensual gay relation. The duo has been very vocal about the archaic law and says that it was never part of Indian culture but was introduced in colonial period. The couple received limelight on international level and went on to become two of the 100 most influential people of 2019 by TIME magazine.

What perhaps is astounding is that there are more powerful discourses about queer relationships circulating from the fields of media, literature, films which have made to pop culture and have consciously being normalised. There are many ventures today that reflect upon queer relations with the use of knowledge, wit and aestheticism. There is now a kindling voice which might render futile if it does not seek mainstream support.

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