Chair, Satrang (Los Angeles, California)
President, KhushDC (Washington, DC)
Monica Elise Davis
Advocacy Director, Trikone (San Francisco)
South Asian LGBTQ Groups in North America Disappointed with India's Supreme Court Ruling, Recriminalizing Homosexual Sex
Groups Organizing Coordinated Protests this Friday, December 13, across the U.S.
As South Asian LGBTQ organizations based in North America, we are shocked and disappointed by the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to re-criminalize homosexual sex in India by reactivating Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
377 is an arcane and draconian ban on homosexual sex that was imposed by the British Raj across South Asia and other colonies in the 19th century. It should have no bearing on the present-day rights of citizens in free countries. We stand with awe-inspiring Indian LGBTQ activists and allies who have fought for decades to repeal the ban and are heartened by the millions of Indians who oppose it. We are more determined than ever help remove the indignity of 377 from the Constitutions of not just India, but all countries where it was forcibly levied.
Make no mistake: the Supreme Court has taken away fundamental rights that their own judicial peers convincingly argue are guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. In 2009, in a historic decision rooted in Indian jurisprudence and culture, the Indian High Court of Delhi declared 377 unconstitutional. For 150 years, 377 was used to brutally persecute sexual minorities across the country, and the Delhi Court correctly argued that the violent and foreign law contradicted the Constitution’s promise of absolute dignity and equality for all Indian citizens. Its decision effectively decriminalized homosexual sex across India for over four years—profound progress that the Supreme Court invalidated yesterday.
Where the Delhi Court’s ruling was bold and powerful, the Supreme Court’s decision is heartbreakingly timid. In overturning the Delhi decision and reinforcing 377, the Court side-stepped many questions on the merits of the case, and provided superficial and incorrect assessments of the rest. Ignoring history altogether, it claimed that 377 does not discriminate against any group, but “merely identifies certain acts” as illegal. The bench also implied that protecting the rights of LGBTQ persons was not their job but that of the Indian Parliament.
The Court is wrong.
The Indian Constitution not only empowers the judiciary but also requires it to protect minority rights. Rather than proving itself equal to the task, India’s highest court has sent the dangerous message that minority rights should be vulnerable to the whims of the majority. Its decision is nothing short of a dereliction of their duty to uphold the Constitution.
But the fight is not over. Activists of all stripes are determined to defeat 377. We stand in solidarity with activists from Naz Foundation, the lead plaintiff calling for a repeal of 377; Humsafar Trust, a leading HIV/AIDS and sexual minority support and advocacy group in India; Voices Against 377, a diverse group of organizations and Indian leaders who oppose the ban; and countless other groups, writers, activists, politicians and community organizers that have worked tirelessly to construct growing spaces where LGBTQ people can live without fear of violence or discrimination in India. We are deeply inspired by their renewed determination to repeal 377. As immigrant-based groups, we are especially concerned about the impact this setback will have on South Asians who worry that their government does not welcome them. In the days to come, we will create spaces where fair-minded South Asians can protest the Supreme Court’s decision, support each other and assist leaders of the cause.
As a start, this Friday December 13th, South Asian LGBTQ organizations are organizing a series of coordinated candlelight vigils across the United States and Canada to lend some light to the Indian government, because the Supreme Court decision on IPC 377 demonstrates the degree to which India is still in the dark.
We have also created a YouTube channel for members of our communities to voice their anguish, concern, and solidarity via video message.
Please check our Facebook and Twitter feeds, or email organizational leads for details about these and future initiatives. In your social media comments, please use #377updates and #377insolidarity so we can compile our community’s responses.
Khush – Tejas
SALGA – New York
SALGA – Philadelphia
Trikone – Atlanta
Trikone – Chicago
Trikone – North-West