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Section 377 was struck down, but how much has the life of the Queer community changed?

“We both love each other very much. But this world has many issues with this love of ours. To the extent that we don’t know what our families might do to us the day they come to know about our relationship,” says a gay couple, who does not want to openly state their identity [sexual orientation]to society. However, at the Pride March held this year, they expressed their love for each other by holding hands.

After almost two years since the corona pandemic started, this year a Pride March was organized in the first week of June at the University of Delhi. In which people of the LGBTQ community participated to mark their happiness. Many people took part in this Pride, and The Mooknayak team talked with some of the people from the LGBTQ community. They told us that even after the striking down of Section 377, there has been no significant change to their life.

Anand had also come to participate in Delhi’s Pride March. He tells us that he is bi-sexual. I am proud of this and I openly acknowledge it. I study at Delhi University. Talking about Section 377, he says that even though by striking down Section 377, the Supreme Court has extricated the bedroom space from the purview of criminal law, the public still is not accepting us. “I study at Delhi University. Even then we are looked down upon. People try to silence us and say what it is about themselves that you will say. The Supreme Court may have given us our rights. But we have yet been given that space [to be ourselves]. Which is our right.”

When did the Supreme Court give the judgment?

On September 6, 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while giving its verdict on homosexuality, said that a mutually consensual relationship between two adults is not illegal. Even after this pronouncement of the Supreme Court, the people have not felt any relief in their life.

Such is the story of Kabir Mann from Delhi. Recalling his past, Kabir said that the only way I could describe the meaning of love was by calling it, love. But this is not how it happens. Kabir is a trans-man. He told us that what happened to him in the name of love and sympathy should not happen to anyone.

Kabir Mann is a trans-man. Photo: Facebook

He says his family has no problem with his sexual identity. Rather, his family members smilingly accepted his identity. That is why he had expected the same from his girlfriend. “When someone assures you that they can accept you at any cost, then what will you do for them? I also did what any ordinary human does. But my girlfriend and her cousin swindled about Rs 10 lakhs by harassing and scaring me.”

Kabir becomes somewhat distressed as he continues to talk, “I had saved all this money for my treatment. After so much happening, when I tried to make a complaint about the matter at the police station, the police also did not support me. On the contrary, they started threatening me. To the extent that they started exerting all kinds of pressure on me.”

The rules are different for transgender and LGB!

Section 377 primarily talks about sexual relations. But even acknowledging one’s identity and accepting oneself is still a big challenge. Saksham Prakriti Welfare Society, an NGO, helps people from the LGBTQ community to become economically capable. So that people are brought into the mainstream and finding good jobs becomes easier. Dhananjay Chauhan, president of the NGO, says that today, despite some winds of change definitely blowing in cities, in the villages, and in the countryside, people are still not able to open up about their identity. The situation is, that even today society is not able to accept homosexuality.

Dhananjay says, “We need to understand the nuances in the difference between transgender and gay-lesbian rights. The transgender’s fight is a fight for their identity. Whereas gay-lesbian and bisexual struggles are about bedroom partners. Bearing this in mind, on December 13, 2013, the Supreme Court criminalized homosexuality by overturning the decision of the Delhi High Court. After this, on April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court conceded all the rights of transgenders and called them the third gender. Amid the growing pressure following this decision, Section 377 was struck down. Which mainly refers to the rights of the LGB.”

Dhananjay says that even after so much change in the law, there are other aspects in which changes are still necessary. At the present time, a poetry recitation event was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Government of Himachal Pradesh. It included a platform provided to members of the LGBTQ community. Ministers and politicians tend to only acknowledge transgenders. They do not even refer to LGB. This attitude needs to change. Nothing happens just by passing a law. Rather, society progresses when the law is actually followed.

Dhananjay’s argument to quite a large extent is clearly evident in our reality. We often see it in the news—the first transgender to become [this or that], or to have got that job. While LGB is not discussed so much. Or we can say that we have never openly talked about it.

Constable Komal Sahu aka Ram, Chhattisgarh.

Last year, the government of Chhattisgarh took a step that was appreciated all over the country. In the year 2021, 13 transgenders were recruited as constables in the Chhattisgarh Police Department. One of these 13 is Komal Sahu aka Ram. Komal is currently posted as a constable in a police station in Dhamtari, Chhattisgarh.

She says, “Our lives have changed since last year. Otherwise, we would have been in the same condition as it is for the rest of the transgenders. Even after the enactment of the law, when we were taking the exam for the position of constable, people were making fun of us. At the time when we went for a run, the people present there used to say that Mamu, how will these people run for a sixer, if these people run then who will clap. ”

Remembering all this, Komal becomes a little pensive. She adds, “Awareness campaigns are conducted everywhere to ensure that no one misbehaves with us. But here, it is the youth themselves who make fun of us. Who is the future of the country? They are destroying the future of the country.”

Vidya Rajput, founder of Mitwa.

On finding out, the family sent them to mental health institution

“No matter how many laws you pass, change will not happen unless and until the public accepts it.” This is the view of Vidya Rajput, who is the founder of Mitwa Foundation, which has been fighting for LGBTQ rights in Chhattisgarh for a long time.

Vidya says, “I have set up a shelter home for people of this community. In the shelter, I also work with them on their skills to make them financially competent. So that person can full lives with their identity. Even after doing so much, many times parents come to take their children back. I have had many such children come to me, who were not able life that suffocating life and who want to live with their identity.”

“Just last week a gay man came to my shelter home. I gave him shelter here. A few days later, his family members came to know about his whereabouts and his relatives came to pick him up. They took him back and admitted him to the mental hospital in Agra. In such a situation, how can we say that things have changed,” she says while raising the question.

D Sahoo, a researcher who has researched LGBTQ people for a long time, says, “The debates and de-criminalization of Section 377 have enabled members of the LGBTQI+ community to come out about their sexual orientation. There has been a decrease in the tendency of community members to perceive themselves as inferior or inadequate based on differences in sexuality and gender orientations. To some extent, there has been an increased acceptance of diversity in sexuality and gender orientations in the wider population, and people have become aware of the problems faced by this community. But even after the decriminalization of homosexual sex, community members are still having to struggle for marriage and adoption rights. A huge difficulty among the members of the community is family acceptance, which some members consider to be the biggest challenge.

Zoya Lobo.

The country’s first trans photojournalist Zoya Lobo says that although laws have been decreed, even today people with our thinking are harassed in many ways. She says, “I get some respect from the people who know this about me, that I am the first [trans] photojournalist in the country. But when I am traveling on a local train in Mumbai, I get people making fun of me. The law has definitely been made. But even today society has not accepted people with our thinking.”

Section 377

On September 6, 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, while giving its decision on Section 377 of the IPC [Indian Penal Code], said that a [sexual] relationship formed by mutual consent of two adults is not illegal. But having sex with children and animals is illegal.

Supreme Court decision of 15 April 2014

On April 15, 2014, the Supreme Court, while stating its historic verdict, declared third gender status for transgenders on the basis of gender. With this, India became the first country to give third-gender rights to transgenders.

यहां हिन्दी में भी पढ़ें: 377 क़ानून तो बना लेकिन कितनी बदली QUEER कम्युनिटी की ज़िंदगी!

[Story Translated By Lotika Singha]

Poonam Masih
Poonam Masih
Poonam Masih, Journalist The Mooknayak

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