Decriminalization Of Section 377 Of The Indian Penal Code – What Does This Mean:
To start with, let me first state what exactly does Section 377 of Indian Penal Code stands for.
Unnatural offences: 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.
Explanation: Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.
In simple words, this law had been interpreted as – unnatural sex, such as homosexuality is a crime (in India).
However, the point to be noted is that this law was introduced in 1861, which was more than 150 years ago, also known as the colonial era. Interestingly, the British who imposed this law in India had this decriminalized in their country. For the last couple of years, many NGO’s and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) activists have openly raised their voices against this law which outright contradicts our core democratic structure. A fight for Freedom. YES! we have a group of folks who were scared to come out in the open and speak for themselves, their rights, even when we as a country took pride in calling ourselves as the ‘Largest Democracy’. This law directly violates the Right to Life and Right to Privacy of an individual, especially to the members belonging to the LGBTQ community.
On this Thursday, 6th September 2018, Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra said – "interpreting Section 377 to criminalize gay sex was irrational, arbitrary and indefensible”.
In other words, homosexuality is not a criminal offense.
This is the first step towards a future where each individual, regardless of his/her choices, is equal before law. Decriminalization is one; however accepting the LGBTQ community is a bigger milestone which is yet to be achieved. For ages, this law has been exploited to harass a specific section of our own society. Time and by we hear stories about how parents seek for psychiatric evaluation to cure homosexuality as it’s termed as “Unnatural” or a mental disorder – or – How WE as a society consider slurring or offensive commenting or gesturing towards the LGBTQ community as OK –or – how we hear about the personnel accounts of discrimination towards LGBTQ people across society: Family, Workplace, Educational institutions etc.
Some of the Key Take ways:
1. Procreation is not the only goal: Two individuals choose to come together because of multiple reasons , say, emotional balance and stability
2. Open Society: A society that welcomes an individual's freedom of choice, and doesn’t oppress nor discriminates an individual, on the basis of their sexual orientation
3. Fundamental Right to Equality: Regardless of an individual’s sexual orientation, we all have a right for Life, Dignity and Privacy. Equal protection demands protection of the identity of every individual without discrimination
This is just the beginning of a process; however a bigger challenge still remains to be addressed or clarified: Marrying a person of choice, Adoption rights, Domestic Violence, Guardianship rights and Right for property inheritance etc. The coming days in our country are going to be revolutionary; a journey towards a more Liberal Society.