City LGBTQ community elated as SC decriminalises Homosexuality

City LGBTQ community elated as SC decriminalises Homosexuality

Saumya Mishra | September 08, 2018 13:41 hrs

GUWAHATI: Members of the LGBTQ+ community in Guwahati are elated with the Supreme Court’s verdict on September 6 which struck down the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), decriminalizing consensual homosexual sex in the country.

City-based LGBTQ activists termed the Supreme Court’s verdict as “historic” which would aid in furthering the struggle for equal rights for the entire community.  

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday delivered the landmark verdict which, the activists said was a victory after a long struggle. 
A part of the judgement read, “To deny LGBT community of their right to sexual orientation is a denial of their citizenship and a violation of their privacy. They cannot be pushed into obscurity by an oppressive colonial legislation.”

Pragati, an LGBTQ rights activist based in Guwahati told G Plus, “It is one of the biggest days for us who have been fighting for the LGBT rights over the years. Somewhere we knew what the verdict will be, but hearing and reading the judgement by the Supreme Court was a different feeling.”

She added that this was merely one strong step towards the long journey ahead. She said, “The SC has only struck down the section 377 but the struggle against the discrimination, stigma, violence and oppression is a long one and we still have to fight against it so the struggle is still on.”

However, activists and members of the LGBTQ community feel that the verdict will definitely add much more ease to their journey as at least the law was in their favour now. 
Section 377 of the IPC is a colonial-era law which came into effect in 1862 and was struck down by the apex court. It stated, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal inter¬course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Prakash Das, another LGBTQ rights activist from Guwahati said that they have been fighting this struggle for the past four years in the city when they had organised the first LGBTQ pride parade in the city.  
Recounting the journey of the community over the years, Das said, “In 2009, we got a small glimpse of hope when the Delhi High Court said that homosexuality is not illegal in India but when the Supreme Court decriminalised it again, it was a big setback for us. But today the Supreme Court delivered a historic verdict and we are very happy.”

He added that this long-drawn struggle has been ongoing since the colonial period when the British imposed this draconian law.    
Further, adding a word of caution Das said, “People need to be very cautious about it as a lot of people are not getting the entire idea of the verdict properly and might spread misinformation.”

On the other hand, Lucky Neog, a budding filmmaker and activist attributed the verdict to the hard work of activists. “My heart is filled with memories of so many others to whom we owe this moment. It happened because of the hard work of activists. It happened because of the community's people who have sacrificed their lives while “coming out.” It happened because of the supportive advocates and many others,” he said.

Additionally, throwing light on the prevailing situation for the LGBTQ community in Guwahati, Shubhajit Dutta, activist and member of Xukia - a queer collective based in the city which fights for the rights of the community of the northeast, said the condition of queer people in Guwahati is a little better than other places in Assam like Silchar and Dhibrugarh as they face relatively less stigma.

Way forward: Sensitisation, other rights for equality for the LGBTQ community 

Talking to G Plus, Swati Bidhan Baruah, the first transgender judge of Assam and crusader for LGBTQ community in the state, said that large-scale sensitisation in all sections of society was the need of the hour. 

“At present, the community faces a lot of stigma and social humiliation from society. The police atrocities and discrimination is very high for the people of the community. This will be stopped at least for the people of the community with the judgement at present,” said Baruah.   
She further added that more sensitisation programmes are needed because even several politicians and bureaucrats show a derogatory attitude towards people from the community and especially towards transgender people.

“The LGBTQ people also need to be made aware of their various rights and issues pertaining to the community,” informed Baruah adding that now the onus is on the state government to implement the verdict.
She also hopes that harassment of members of the community by the police authorities under this section will now stop.

Activists and members of the LGBTQ community feel that the verdict is just a stepping stone towards equality. They informed that their responsibility has increased as they have to work towards sensitising people and fight for anti- discriminatory laws. 

“We now need to talk about further rights and protection for the LGBTQ people. Issues like adoption for homosexual couples, their insurance, marriage rights need to be worked on,” said Baruah.

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