Gay rights activists in India were shocked Thursday when a senior government lawyer called homosexual sex a “highly immoral” act that was “against social order.” Just three years before, New Delhi’s High Court had overruled a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
But some activists didn’t think the incident involved miscommunication at all, saying the confusing statements showed that the government is not fully behind gay rights. The Supreme Court, after all, is currently hearing challenges to the 2009 law from political, social and religious groups, a number of whom staunchly support reinstatement of the ban on gay sex. “Issues of morality and societal perception will always remain” in India, Shobhna Kumar, CEO of Queer Ink, which publishes LGBT books in the country, told BlogPost on Thursday.
Kumar, however, is confident that the judgment will not be easily overturned, calling it “very conclusive” in terms of the constitutional rights it affords people who want to have same-sex relations.
Since the judgment, Kumar says, LGBT communities in India have increasingly been perceived as mainstream. So much so, in fact, that gay rights groups led by people who are not gay have sprung up across the country. Here is a recent account by rights activist Harish Iyer of a straight-queer event at Wilson College in Mumbai, from the Indian LGBT magazine “Pink Pages”:
Not one smirk, not one untoward homophobic reaction and that too at a public place that was open to all and sundry. I don’t know if this will actually result in a high heterosexual turnout at the [Queer Pride] march in Mumbai ... but I do know that the waves of Arabian Sea tell me that it is suddenly queer to hate... Initiatives like these will ignite minds and start a dialogue against discrimination. Wilsonians! How sexy in attitude you are!
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