“I’m not a murderer or a traitor. I love my country and society. But I’m still treated like a criminal,” said Aby, a person assigned male gender at birth, but who identifies as a female. Aby was speaking at a consultation meeting in protest against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality.
The meeting was organised by Marvell Pehchan, an organisation that works with MSM (men who have sex with men), transgender, and hijra communities on issues of HIV/AIDS and human rights. Called ‘207 against 377’, the consultation was part of a nation-wide campaign by 207 community-based organisations against IPC Section 377.
The meet, attended by members of sexual minority groups, lawyers, students, and human rights activists, discussed the nuances of Section 377 and how the law impacted the lives of sexual minorities.
Aby and other persons from the group recounted their experiences of harassment they faced in Kochi. Aby said the police had stood by her side when she faced problems with her neighbours. Another person who identified as a transgender said she had been harassed by the police and the public repeatedly for being open about her sexuality.
“The objective of the consultation is to understand the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 and its implications on our daily life. The community always stands together to solve each other’s problems. But this is a nation-wide programme to spread awareness,” said Navas, project manager of Marvell Pehchan in Ernakulam. He urged members of the community to come out in the open about their identity and to stand firm when facing adversity.
Advocate and human rights activist K. Nandini said at the meet that most persons belonging to sexual minorities were arrested by the police not under Section 377, but under laws relating to morality and public obscenity. Speakers at the consultation reiterated that sexual orientation was a matter of personal choice.