So the Supreme Court of India has suddenly decided to go all technical and has lobbed the ball on Section 377 to the Parliament, saying that only the legislature can rule on the constitutionality of the law in question.
You are not going to be alone in being angry and bewildered and disappointed with this decision. But instead of hand-wringing and having endless arguments on social media, do something. Because this judgement is now history, and we can only work to alter it. This is not the time to give up, but to fight on.
So here’s six things you can do:
1) Contact your local MLA and MP.
Ask them whether they will support the repeal of Section 377, and promise the legislator the loss of your vote if they don’t. Convince as many people as you can to write in as well (or to sign your letter). Write a letter every week till they answer you. And keep reminding them about your lost votes. There’s nothing a politician hates more than the potential loss of votes. This country wants vote-bank politics, right? They can have it.
2) Grill prospective legislators.
Ask every candidate for any upcoming election (which you are eligible to vote for) whether they will support the repeal of Section 377. And promise them the loss of your vote if they don’t. Demand an answer and try and convince them if they say no. Remember, you are a vote-bank.
Offer your support, your vote, your money, and any other sort of help to the Naz Foundation, the Alternative Law Forum, the Humsafar Trust, and other members of Voices Against 377. Even if you do nothing but write to them and tell them you’re supporting them, it’ll matter.
4) Know the enemy.
The 2009 High Court ruling was opposed by a coalition of religious and community groups – Baba Ramdev. Suresh Kumar Koushal. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board. Trust Gods Ministry. Apostolic Churches Alliance and Utkal Christian Foundation. Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (wtf?!).
Write to them repeatedly telling them how disgusted you are with their narrow-minded attitudes. Tell them you will fight them and will support any review. Tell everyone you know that these were the groups responsible, and warn them away. Convince anyone you know who utilises their services or donates to them or watches their TV shows or buys their books to boycott them. Hit them in their pocket, because that’s what they care about most. If you know where their offices are, get a bunch of friend together and go protest outside them. If you feature in any sort of publicity, denounce them again and again. If you spot any of them on the road, shame them, provoke them into an argument, or just shout at them so that they listen to you and know people disagree with them. Do NOT let them rest smugly and think they’ve won.
5) Create awareness.
If you know somebody who is happy with this ruling, and believes it’s all about gays, remind them that Section 377 applies to every single person living in India. Highlight the fact that this law allows the government (and the police) to dictate what consenting adults in this country can or cannot do in private spaces. Highlight that this could be used by future regimes to impose any law that they think is ‘morally right’. And if they’re completely stubborn – and if they’re of an age where such things matter to them – be blunt enough to point out that they themselves now cannot legally indulge in oral or anal sex. Since this law applies to every single person in this country (even if heterosexual).
6) Most importantly, support your gay friends.
Be aware that this ruling effectively is a call for open season on all gays in this country. Corrupt cops, right-wing loonies, religious nutters, and conservative ‘sections of society’ will all be out to harass them and trouble them and terrorise them. After all, it was one thing living with the threat of some arcane medieval law being invoked, but now that law has been ratified by the highest court in independent India. It’s doubly official, and the anti-gay brigade know it, and will be out in force and more rabid than ever.
It’s going to be a scary, traumatic time for anybody who’s gay, thinks they’re gay but are not sure, or are just getting to the stage where they think about things like hetero or gay. Offer your shoulder, your ear, your home, and any other support you can, because by heck, they’re going to need it.
If you have to fight your family over it, do it. If you have to face down some right-wing goondas, do it. If you have to argue with or pay off some trouble-making cop, do it. If you’re asked to go to a protest to raise awareness and boost numbers, do it. If they want to add your name and photo to a public list of people who support their rights, do it. If you are asked if a secret gay party can be hosted in your house, say yes.
Whatever you have to do, be there for any gay person you know.
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This is going to be long, hard, and often disheartening battle now. But it’s more than just about LGBT rights. It’s about what sort of country we want for the future. And for the future of our future generations. It’s about standing up against the unreasoning, uncompromising orthodoxy. It’s about indirectly helping all the millions of people in other countries who look upto the ‘world’s largest democracy’ for guidance in matters of humans rights. It’s about you and me and all of us. Surely that’s worth fighting for?