Yesterday has been marked as a milestone in the history of India as the Supreme Court decriminalised Section 377 calling it, “irrational and indefensible”. The country painted itself in the shades of the rainbow and celebrated love in its truest form. We broke the shackles and rigidity that society tied us down with and awoke as humans of a new era who believe in freedom.
However, the fight to reach here has been long and hard, and one we cannot overlook. Homosexuality was criminalised in India 158 years ago when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code outlawed “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” But it was all reversed on the September 6th as Chief Justice, Dipak Mishra uttered the historic words, “I am as I am. So take me as I am.”
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Today, we’re celebrating not just the rainbow coloured flag but those people who actually held it high and waved in tirelessly even during the darkest days. These are the activists who made the win possible.
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A Rhodes Scholar, an activist, and an advocate, Menaka was the only woman in an all-male team fighting hard against Section 377. Her words not only won her the case, but also were forever etched in our hearts as she said, “How strongly must we love knowing we are unconvicted felons under Section 377? My Lords, this is love that must be constitutionally recognised, and not just sexual acts.”
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This Bengaluru-based activist was one of the few who used her voice to put the rights of the transgender community at the forefront. She was the first trans person to be honoured with the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award, the second highest civilian honour of the state. She tried to take her own life at the age of 12 and was forced into prostitution soon after. Akkai’s struggles with gender rigidity have been heartbreaking, but her work for her community and humanity as a whole has been path-breaking. What a win for her!
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There was a time when Ritu Dalmia didn’t know how to define being attracted to a girl and today, as we stand basking in the glory of a brighter India, freedom-fighters like Ritu Dalmia are to be lauded. The celebrity chef had once spoken about love, “When I look back at my life, I was attracted to women, but did not know how to define that feeling... For me, when I fell in love, it was very clear to me that I did not want to hide the person I was in love with.” Now you won’t have to anymore!
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Yesterday, tears brimmed in our eyes as Justice Indu Malhotra declared that history owes the gay community an apology. “The members of this (LGBTQ+) community were compelled to live a life full of fear of reprisal and persecution. This was on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognise that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality,” said the judge. What a day to be alive, the nation cheered with pride at Justice Malhotra’s words.
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It was businesswoman and actor, Ayesha Kapur who was among those who filed petitions to get to this landmark judgment. According to a New York Times report, she had not known if this day would ever come. Growing up in Delhi with the stigma around same-sex relations, she struggled in a society where the term ‘lesbian’ was used as a bad word, but she stood up for her rights and helped the country accept everyone.
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The founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation, Anjali Gopalan’s efforts to decriminalise homosexuality have been relentless. Back in 2001, the foundation became the original petitioners for scrapping Section 377. Yesterday, the nation celebrated with an elated Gopalan who finally won her 17-year long crusade.
Yes, the fight is going to be hard and the road ahead is a long one, but we've marked a new era of Indian awakening and together we're going to take the country from bigotry and hatred towards love. Today we pause, today we celebrate, and today we revel in the joy that we were part of something larger than ourselves individually; today and forevermore we paint the country all shades of the rainbow.
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