With the Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that a same-gender sexual relationship is an offence, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Kolkata asserted that their fight would only get even stronger.
The movement is “strong” and will, with “renewed vigour”, take on the verdict, said the members who gathered at the Academy of Fine Arts for a meeting.
Six months after members of the LGBT community and rights activists proudly paraded through the streets of Kolkata in a Pride Walk, they are now seeking legal options for review of the apex court decision.
The Delhi High Court in a verdict in 2009 decriminalised the sexual relationship between consenting adults of the same gender, thus overturning Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sexual activity “against the order of nature”.
That Delhi High Court verdict has now been set aside by the Supreme Court.
For Meenakshi Sanyal, managing-trustee of Sappho For Equality, one of the primary non-governmental organisations supporting the LGBT community in eastern India, the verdict reflects how regressive the country has become. Despite the initial jolt, Sanyal asserted that the movement will “only grow stronger”.
“It’s a complete about-turn… we strongly condemn this. This is not decriminalising, but recriminalisation… Is the country going forward or backward? This is a national movement and we will fight for justice,” Sanyal told IANS.
Echoing Sanyal, Debi Debnath, a lesbian, who participated in the Pride Walk, stressed that action would be initiated within the ambit of the legal system.
“Whatever we do will be within the law… sexual orientation is part of human rights. We are not looked at with respect, and now, with this verdict, our fight for respect will become even stronger,” she told IANS.
Pointing out that the ruling comes a day after World Human Rights Day, Sanyal said the matter did not merely concern the LGBT community, but was about upholding the rights of citizens.
Academic Nabaneeta Dev Sen expressed “shock” and dismay at the apex court ruling.
“It is extremely regressive…going backwards…I can’t support this verdict in any manner. I am extremely shocked and irritated. With the 2009 verdict, I thought now we can show to the world that we are a truly independent nation and our citizens have freedom of rights and expression… how I live my life within a democracy is a matter I will decide, and that is a human right,” Dev Sen said.
Sociologist and women’s rights activist Saswati Ghosh said: “The state shouldn’t intervene… for an adult, it is up to him or her to choose the way to live.”
Noted historian and columnist Ramachandra Guha tweeted: “The Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 is a step backwards towards barbarism and medievalism.”
Restoring Section 377 under the statute book, the Supreme Court, referring to the Attorney General, said the government could, if it so desired, amend the law.
“It’s neither here nor there… it’s a hindrance… now they are referring to parliament. They didn’t take care of it completely… what do they want? ” Dev Sen asked.
The next step for activists such as Pawan Dhall of SAATHII would be to “explore legal options to review the petition”.