Since 2018, September has been an important month for India’s LGTBQ+ community. When the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 (which criminalised gay sex) on September 6, 2018, it became a key milestone of independent India. The third anniversary brought with it much to celebrate, including commemorative tweets by advocate Menaka Guruswamy, one of the lawyers who fought the case, and activist Kavita Krishnan; to Axis Bank now announcing a host of policies for the LGBTQIA+ community. And on the educative front, Mumbai-based media company All Things Small’s latest podcast, 377 .
All Things Small is the company behind Spotify originals like Mission ISRO and Dhruv Rathee's Mahabharat , and this new podcast takes a deep dive into the colonial-era law’s rather long journey. It also analyses the country’s legal system. Featuring guests such as author and public health official Siddharth Dube and lawyer Anand Grover, the well-researched podcast is peppered with news bytes and court readings as well. In this interview with The Hindu Weekend , the podcast’s creator, journalist Sindhuri Nandhakumar tells us why she centred the 12-part series around the law three years after it was struck down, and why a retrospective discussion is relevant even today.
Why did you choose to record a podcast on Section 377?
It’s interesting to note how people used the courtroom as a way to advance their rights. Since a lot of constitutional experts say that law follows society and doesn’t actually set the tone for society, I wanted to understand what the societal context was to Section 377.
What relevance does this discussion on the law hold today?
This case, which is actually a series of legal petitions, has been very well documented by a number of organisations. The producer of the podcast, Ashim D’Silva, and I worked with experts (constitutional law authority, Tarunabh Khaitan), scholars (authors Ruth Vanita and Jyoti Puri) and organisations (Bengaluru’s QAMRA, Lawyers’ Collective). We’re happy to say the law is a thing of the past but we see similar patterns being repeated. The transgender bill for example; there was a landmark judgement passed in the case too, but we didn’t see the kind of progress we were hoping for the community.
Do you see the podcast bringing about societal change?
In 2001, when Naz Foundation India Trust filed the petition, there were a number of people from the queer community who said, ‘we’re not okay with you picking a law that targets only gay men, and use that to represent all of us. What about the rights of other people in the community?’ This led to a wider discussion and eventually mobilised the entire community. It’s a hopeful story, and I hope we can use those positive aspects of a rather difficult struggle to inspire people.
What do upcoming episodes feature?
We have sessions on the disagreements within the queer community after the first petition was filed in 2001, the idea of privilege in the queer community, and other judgements passed in this space, among other topics.
The first three episodes of ‘377 - The legal battle against India’s anti-LGBTQ law’ are now streaming on Spotify. New episodes to drop every week.