The repercussions of India’s Supreme Court verdict re-criminalising gay sex are being felt as far afield as the U.S., advocacy groups for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community rights said this week.
“While our friends in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Jamaica, Guyana, and other places where South Asians live in the diaspora were excited in 2009,” when the Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex, they now were in “a state of disbelief about the Supreme Court decision,” said Sapna Pandya, co-founder of Humsafar International, a collective of trainers on sexual health and sexual identity issues among LGBT South Asian communities.
Her comments came at a panel discussion, organised by the South Asian Bar Association-DC, the American India Foundation, KhushDC and the LGBT Bar Association of DC, which focused on both the legal issues and challenges to fundamental human rights in India posed by the Supreme Court ruling.
Ms. Pandya noted in particular that many among the older generation of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. “frame the issue around the Supreme Court’s view” and this was making it harder for members of the Indian LGBT community to speak openly about their sexual orientation here.
“I do know that people felt less able to come out now, less able to speak about this, less able to be safe, as a result of the latest decision in Indian courts,” she said, also recounting the 2009 incident in which the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association was not allowed to march with the India Day Parade in New York City.
The Supreme Court’s December 11 ruling in favour of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sexual acts “against the order of nature,” may have also influenced asylum-related policies in the U.S., as not more than ten days after that ruling a gay couple that fled India in 2012 for fear of persecution was granted asylum here.
In this regard, Ms. Pandya said that while such cases of asylum for South Asian LGBT persons was “not a new phenomenon,” even if the majority of such applications were generally denied, “the case may have been harder to make,” before the latest Section 377 ruling.
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