Though homosexuality is still illegal in India under its oppressive colonial period law, there has been increasing acceptance and support for homosexuals in the civil society, at least in major cities.
On this Sunday the South Indian city of Chennai witnessed the annual Rainbow pride march of the LGBTQ community belonging to the Tamilnadu state.
Down with 377!” chants a large crowd on a balmy Sunday afternoon as it marches through the heart of Chennai, each word punctuated by cheers and the hard thump of the thavil – the traditional Tamil drum.
“My life!” bellows one of the leaders of the parade, to a resounding response of “My decision!”
This is the annual Chennai Rainbow Pride Parade, an event that gives members of the LGBTQ community a chance to rally with supporters for two major demands – equal rights and dismissal of Section 377.
Section 377 of Indian Penal Code terms homosexuality as unnatural and carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail.
The section 377 is present in the penal code from 1860, when Britain ruled India. It was decriminalized with respect to sex between consenting adults by the High Court of Delhi on July 2009. That judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 12 December 2013. The court passed the ball onto the court of politicians saying amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary. Most politicians are not keen to take up the issue as they fear a backlash from religious heads and conservative voters. A curative petition is still under the consideration of the court.
I am hoping that sooner than later, the world’s largest democracy will heed the plea for equal rights for all, regardless of their sexuality and gender.