Fourth anniversary of SC verdict on 377: Fight for equal rights continues for LGBTQ people

Four years ago on this day the Supreme Court partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) decriminalising same-sex relationship between consenting adults.

However, on the fourth anniversary day of the verdict, queer activists in Kolkata, which hosted India’s as well as South Asia’s first Queer Pride walk way back on July 2, 1999, the members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian-Gay- Bisexual- Transgender -Queer) Community continue to complain about public humiliations and harassments.

IANS spoke to a couple of queer rights activists, legal brains and psychologists on this issue that continue to make the lives of people coming from the LGBTQ community quite painful.

According to Pawan Dhall, founding trustee of Varta Trust, Kolkata, which runs a pan-Indian Covid-19 services locator dedicated to the people from this community in association with Chennai-based Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHII), and Grindr for Equality from Los Angeles, the partial striking down of Section 377 was just the beginning where consenting adults having same- sex relations get legal shield against prosecution.

“While that is the legal part of it, the harassment and humiliations for the people from the community not just from the public in general but also from the constituents of the administration still continue. The legal shield has to be carried forward with creation of mass awareness,” said Dhall, one of the principal initiators of India’s as well as South Asia’s first Queer Pride walk in Kolkata, then Calcutta.

Senior counsel of the Calcutta High Court, Kaushik Gupta feels that although Article 14 of the Indian Constitution ensures every person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of the country, often the spirit of that Article is not followed in case of the people from the LGBTQ community. “To my opinion it is high time that a separate law under this Article of the constitution should be formulated that will ensure protection of the people of the community from social injustice, inequality and harassment,” Gupta said.

Counsel of Kolkata- based Bankshall Court, Jyoti Prakash Khan said that it is the duty of the state administrative machinery to ensure that the Supreme Court’s decision to partially strike down Section 377 is followed in true spirit. “The apex court’s verdict on this count is applicable pan-India and hence the state government should initiate in ensuring its administrative machinery, especially police to implement the verdict true to the spirit,” he said.

City- based psychiatrist and faculty of the Kolkata- based KPC Medical College & Hospital, Dr Tirthankar Guha Thakurta said that the partial striking down of Section 377 four years back, at least opened the path for dialogues on queer issues in a major way and brought about some kind of confidence among the people from the community to come out and demand equal rights.

“However, the problem lies where a person from the community faces discrimination at the domestic level from their parents and other family members. However, since I am coming from the education sector, things have started improving and there are increasing number of initiatives both at the individual level as well as institutional levels to arrange for counselling of the parents of queer children,” said Guha Thakurta, who is also a visiting faculty to the Department of Psychology of the University of Calcutta.

City- based queer rights activist Tracy Shivangi Sardar said that while the current generation is comfortable with the association with people from the Queer community, the discrimination comes mainly from the older generation. “We need a thorough awareness campaign on this count,” she said.

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