The verdict regarding Section 377 on the 6th September 2018 brought with it celebration and overwhelming euphoria across the nation. As we drift away from heteronormativity (the normalisation of heterosexual sexual and romantic relations), you may have some questions. Where did Section 377 even come from? What did it mean for the LGBTQIA+ community? Why is this verdict so important? The journey to liberation from Section 377 wasn’t an easy or short one; let’s take a look at what it was really like.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was introduced in 1861 during British colonial rule in India. It was modelled on England’s Buggery Act 1533, the country’s first law concerning sodomy. Section 377 was hence used to criminalise any and all sexual activities “against the order of nature,” that is, any kind of sex that wasn’t penile-vaginal. As we all know, the world of sex is as diverse, vibrant, and interesting as the LGBTQIA+ community, and this law essentially outlawed their basic rights to equality, privacy, freedom, and choice. It stratified Indian community into two distinct demographics: straight, norm-abiding citizens – and criminals.
The Fight for Equality
Before social media took the country by storm, India’s fight to decriminalize the LGBTQIA+ community began in 1991 when a movement to repeal Section 377 was initiated by AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan. Their publication, ‘Less than Gay: A Citizen’s Report,’ identified the issues with the law and demanded its abolition.
The Battle Continues
Throughout the years, many activist groups, such as Naz Foundation (India) Trust and Voices Against 377 demanded that Section 377 be read down. In 2009, the Delhi High Court delivered a momentous judgement overturning the archaic law, but an assortment of appeals were filed with the Supreme Court, challenging this judgment. Significantly, Lok Sabha member Shashi Tharoor introduced a private member’s bill to replace Section 377 in December 2015 but was voted down. Though the bill was introduced to the floor a second time, it was yet again heard down.
In August 2017, the Supreme Court upheld India’s Right to Privacy and made special mention of how this right affects Section 377, officially deeming it unconstitutional. However, the Court decided to wait for an appropriate proceeding in order to verify its constitutional validity.
The Battle is Won
Historically, after many a court proceeding, the Supreme Court announced its final verdict regarding Section 377. On 6th September 2018, the law was deemed unconstitutional, “irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary.” As the fight for equality finally ended, the freedom to simply be who you are and love who you please was finally recognised. There is more to be done for the LGBTQIA+ community, but what a pivotal moment for Indians, indeed.