Why it’s time to “Come out of Closet”

“The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.”

― Rita Mae Brown

Junaid was already speaking to another co-passenger, Susheela, when I boarded the cab.There was something about him that attracted me immediately. He had the most radiant face, perfectly chiseled nose, deep brown eyes, the kind of smile you would want your dentist to design for you and perfect eyebrows.  I shifted my gaze when he saw me staring at him and burst out laughing.  And then the conversation started.

Within 5 minutes of speaking to him , he told me that he is homosexual and his face looked that sculpted because of make-up contouring. My heart shattered a bit inside but I passed on a smile with a puppy face. On the other hand, I expected my cab driver to jump out of the window and the Christian co-passenger to faint but to my surprise, nothing of that sort happened. Infact, they gave understanding looks. Junaid was surprised too.In the 50 minute ride, this young man of 25 told me the kind of treatment he had faced from the society just because of his sexual preference. How the people just refuse to identify any other sexuality except for heterosexuals.  How he was bullied in his childhood just because of the way he walked.  How his family supported him even when they belonged to an Indian-Muslim family. He told me some incidents which brought a smile on my lips and some which left a lump in my throat.  The ride ended positively, with us exchanging numbers and promising to meet again. And it left me thinking.

Being a lawyer, I had no answers for him when he asked me whether the law would ever tilt in his favour. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, criminalises any individual who has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal. The Victorian era statute framed in 1860 was struck down by the Delhi High Court in 2009 in the case of Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi . The court stated that the section goes against Article 14, 15 and 21 of the constitution,  which guaranteed the right to equality before law, right not to be discriminated on the grounds of sex and right to life and liberty respectively . It further added that  the discrimination and atrocities which are faced by the LGBT community  are faced by them as they are targeted upon as a class.

The case was appealed in the Supreme Court, which eventually turned down High Court’s verdict and criminalised Section 377 again in the case of Suresh Kumar Kaushal vs. Naz Foundation (2013) . The judgment brought heavy criticism from the supporters of the LGBT as it runs against the history of the top court acting as a champion of the underprivileged. Not only did it strike down the contentions of  Naz Foundation, it also snatched away the last ray of hope of the LGBT, which were dependent on the apex court to deliver them justice. The verdict resulted in thousands of individuals shutting down themselves back into their closet, again. But it also brought forth widespread support for the elimination of Section 377 among the enlightened sections of Indian society, including eminent lawyers, jurists, renowned writers, political activists, journalists, doctors, actors etc.

The majority of LGBT shudder at the thought of coming out of their closet as they fear the treatment they would be subjected to.  The one’s who reveal their sexuality to their parents are often send to psychiatric care or “jhaad-foonk babas” for medication.  The  community faces regular discrimination from their families, employers, the police and society in general.  The situation gets worse in rural areas where families considers same sex marriages as a taboo and resort to subjecting the homosexual woman to gang-rape in order to heal her “soul”.  

The LGBT does not remain a miniscule minority anymore, as it was termed by the Supreme Court in its judgement. It has garnered support from a number of distinguished and esteemed public figures including Vikram Seth, fashion designers Rohit Bal and Manish Arora, film directors Karan Johar etc.  A private member’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality was moved twice by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor  in the Lok Sabha, but unfortunately he could not get it passed.  Arun jaitley, Piyush Goel, JD(U)’s Shivanand Tiwari took an equally dim view of the SC order, terming it “regressive” and expressed solidarity with the LGBT community.

The practice of accepting homosexuality has gained acceptance worldwide with approximately 76 countries in the world  which have criminal laws against sexual activity by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex  (LGBTI) people, according to a revised version of a tally by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.  It is only a matter of time before we as a nation get rid of “Judeo-Christian morality” slapped on the citizens like Junaid by Section 377 and accord the LGBT community their right to live a dignified life. It is time we stop accepting the bipolar civilisation we are living in, which on one hand boasts of Missions to Mars and on the other hand  puts you in jail for loving the one you actually want to love.

 

Extending my share of support

Shraddha Lal

On Behalf of team InCourt