A Victorian-era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 stated, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse 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 ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
The law for centuries criminalised the consensual sex between two couples of same-sex. It was a source for the authorities to prosecute of a number of people in the name of committing ‘unnatural sex’. In a historical judgement, this draconian law was struck down by a five-judge Supreme Court bench in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.
Legally speaking, homosexuality is not a crime anymore in India, but has the society accepted the queers as the law did?
While several data available shows that the world is moving towards accepting homosexuality, on the other hand, data by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and Azim Premji University found that almost 48% people disagreed that two people with same-gender having sexual relationship should be accepted by society in contrast to only 28% people agreeing to it.
If we talk about the corporate sector in India, have they really taken solid steps to bring in the question of inclusion of the queers on which judgement of the Supreme Court was based? Although there were some corporates which had policies for the queers even before when the judgement, the majority of companies, including several other big players till now haven’t made the necessary changes in their policies.
Notwithstanding the policies of the big companies, it has been observed that the start-ups, smaller companies have proactively worked towards bringing in inclusiveness, equitable and safe workspace. Many of them are conducting programmes to sensitise the employees on gender-agnosticism and change in policy to make workplace LGBTQ friendly. They may be small in size but are the spirit of change towards bringing in inclusivity and excluding gender exclusivity.
Moreover, there is a vast divide between the rural and urban population in India on issues such as language, caste, gender etc. People in India are diverse, and the experiences of the queer group vary vastly. At some places, people are often acceptable to the question of homosexuality while at other places, they hold complete intolerance. Decriminalisation of homosexuality was indeed a historic step, and it still needs to be done to achieve absolute rights of the queers.
It becomes the responsibility of every Indian to spread information about the inalienable and absolute right of the queers to express and identify themselves in their own way, without any fear of violence or retribution and to make India a safe place for them. Moreover, we owe a lot to the queer community out of centuries of oppression and discrimination against them. We are doing our part! Are you?