Life & Style

The Rainbow year


Post the historic SC Verdict of 2018, it is now imperative to educate the public about the complexities involved in living out queer lives in our societies, says Shivaji K Panikker

The long drawn-out legal battle of the LGBTQI communities bore positive result on September 7, 2018, when the Supreme Court of India struck down the Indian Penal Code 377, which criminalised consensual same-sex relations since the colonial times.

For me, the watershed moment was spent listening to the news on TV in my apartment in New Delhi and sharing the excitement with friends the world over on WhatsApp.

Expectedly, all over the country, the immediate response to the historic verdict was great jubilation and joyous celebrations, and for a long time to come, the verdict has enabled a possibility for a future that reinstates faith in the judicial system. Primarily, this move goes a long way in helping to build a positive self-image among the queer people at large. Further, the judgement has opened up various possibilities of living life with dignity, of claiming legal approval to fulfil desires such as to marry, adopt children, and for the creation of laws of inheritance to begin with.

An immediate sense of relief was also palpable since the event instilled a sense of respite from the fear of threats and misuse of the section 377 that the queer people have faced all along, often from police or from public at large.

Crucial questions

The crucial moot question at this juncture is how to effect social acceptance of the the court verdict? Will the Indian social milieu ever accept the alternative life choices of person’s having non-heteronormative gender and sexual orientations? Will the basic human right of the queer people to live openly as equals along with the heterosexuals be ever fulfilled? For despite the progressive legal support that has been achieved, for those who choose non-heteronormative gender identity and/or sexual practices in India, these are still considered either as perversion, or abnormal/unnatural aberrations, and any references to such people and behaviour remain a matter of shame and embarrassment.

The apex court’s decision to bestow human dignity on people with different consensual sexual choices and gender identities thus, however, need not necessarily be accepted or translated in real life situations of ordinary citizens. For instance, despite the progressive verdict from the apex court, the conservative public mindset has responded with much disdain and resistance is clearly evident from the ongoing controversy regarding the entry of women in the menstruating age groups at the Sabarimala temple. This instance has brought out the deep-seated hypocrisy of progressive Kerala society.

However, unlike the conflicts that were witnessed in the aftermath of the Sabarimala verdict, the repealing of IPC 377 was received with a discomforting silence of the people at large.

Hence, despite the supportive court verdict, which surely has many positive affects, the conservative social mindset might take a very long time to actually change.

Perhaps, one thing that is required to be done urgently is to create platforms for opening up public debates on the queer issues, which can inform and educate the public about the complexities involved in living out queer lives in our societies today.

(Shivaji K Panikkar is Professor at School of Culture & Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University, Delhi)

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 6:55:04 AM |

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