Washington, DC – I won’t lie: When I read the news that India’s Supreme Court had reversed the 2009 ruling that struck down the sodomy ban, I cried. I grabbed the nearest pint of ice cream, sat in my bed, and wept like a baby. For me, a proud Indian lesbian who had just successfully come out to her parents, this was a severe blow. I wouldn’t be able to bring my future wife to a place I loved dearly, I wouldn’t even be able to come out to the rest of my family.
This decision was a step back for the rights of India’s LGBTQ community. However, I must introduce a ray of hope to all who have fought so hard and will continue to fight: India is changing.
In 2009, when the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377, I was in India. I was fifteen years old at the time and I had just gone through the catastrophe of Proposition 8 in my home state, California. I was also still dealing with the revelation that I was a part of this community, that I was gay.
The day that Section 377 was struck down, I remember distinctly that there were no major figures in India reacting. The only Bollywood actor who spoke out was Celina Jaitly, who is known primarily for being an LGBTQ rights activist. Few government officials commented, the most public in my memory being the Health Minister at the time. He decried the decision. My family in India was silent on the matter, and they looked physically uncomfortable whenever the matter came up on the news.
When I woke up Wednesday morning and searched 377 on Google, the amount of public criticism was astonishing. Bollywood stalwarts like Karan Johar and Aamir Khan (my favorite actor!) were tweeting criticisms of the ruling. Major public officials, like P Chidambaram and other members of the UPA government were openly criticizing the judgment. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi even came out and publicly called it a backward step for India. Every single major Indian publication was criticizing the decision.
Most moving for me, however, was the post my great-uncle (my grandfather’s brother) posted on his Facebook: “I fear for those who are left-handed because they are in a minority, not in the mainstream, are different, may be marginalized and therefore may be treated as criminals after another 100 years by the then Highest courts”.
There is no doubt that Wednesday was a dark day for India, a backward step for the world’s largest democracy, and whatever else the media has to say. This is not the end of the story. India’s culture is slowly shifting towards understanding that human dignity does not stop at the gender of one’s partner, or the label you call yourself. This is not going to be the new normal for very long. Parliament now has the opportunity to repeal this law and get rid of it once and for all.