New Delhi: As the Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a law banning same-gender sex, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community said they were now vulnerable to “discrimination and violence”.
The apex court ruled there was no constitutional room for change in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that holds same gender sexual relationship an offence.
“It is a black day for us. I feel so exhausted even thinking that we have been set back by 100 years. What age are we living in? What is this reflective of us as a culture and people? It is bizarre that we got the judgment, given that the Delhi High Court judgment was such a fabulous one,” Anjali Gopalan, founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation Trust, said at a press conference here.
Arvind Narayan, a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, said the decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the Delhi High Court decision has left him deeply saddened.
“The verdict renders the LGBT members once again vulnerable to discrimination and violence. To us, the judgment is a fundamental betrayal of the constitutional promise that the dignity of each citizen will be recognised,” he said.
Expressing disappointment and shock at the “earth shattering verdict”, gay activist Ashok Row Kavi said: “With this verdict, we are back to square one. But we will fight for our rights. It is essential to note that this has nothing to do with morality and religion.”
“We are just asking for inclusive rights in the society. This is just a type of orientation a lot of people are involved in. We are not doing anything on the roads,” he added.
Leslie Esteven, another gay activist, told IANS: “We are asking for our rights given by the constitution under Article 21. We will continue to fight for our rights. They do not understand our simple demand.”
Shaleen Rakesh, an activist who has been involved with the petition in court since the beginning, said he has been deeply saddened by the news.
“The journey of the past 12 years has been very hopeful and celebratory. We have made major achievements in terms of our rights, as well as reversing the HIV epidemic which is linked. But from this single judgment, a lot of that has been reversed,” he said.
“I am shocked to be living in a country that expects me to go back in to the closet. I refuse to go back to the closet again,” Rakesh added.
Lawyer Anand Grover said: “We are disappointed that after nearly 13 years of struggle, the community is now very apprehensive that they will have to go to jail. We will take recourse to all measures that are open to us, including options in the Supreme Court like review and curative petitions.”
Asserting that the Supreme Court judgment is “thoroughly wrong”, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender rights activist, said: “They (apex court) asked us to go to parliament, which is yet to pass bills on women reservation and HIV. You think we can talk to parliamentarians about sexuality … it will take another 100 years. But my courage is not lost, and we will fight back.”
Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh said: “This judgment goes counter to the value of the constitution.”
Blaming the judicial system and the government for delaying the issue, Pallav Patankar from the Humsafar Trust said that the verdict is a big blow to the community.
“Where are we taking this? It is the same government which is supporting programmes for the HIV movements, and one of the affidavits was from the National AIDS Control Organisation. We do not have clarity as to where we are going,” he said.