AIDS activist L. Ramakrishnan reports on a resurgence of homophobia in India in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court decision that reinstated a colonial-era law against homosexual activity.
By L. RAMAKRISHNAN
On December 11, 2013, India’s Supreme Court overturned a progressive 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court. In doing so, it effectively re-criminalised same-sex behaviour among consenting adults in private, setting back more than a decade of activism by human rights groups and LGBT activists.
Several prominent individuals including the Attorney General of India, the Law Minister, Finance Minister, and bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission, academic institutions, human rights groups and civil society agencies have issued statements and press releases expressing concern over the retrograde decision of the Supreme Court. The Government of India has also filed a review petition pointing out 78 grounds on which the Supreme Court decision is flawed.
At the same time, the country is witnessing an upsurge of homophobic groups trying to shout down the supportive voices.
Tamil Nadu, a traditionally progressive state in southern India, and the only state to have a transgender welfare board constituted by the state government, is seeing unprecedented protests from groups voicing religion-based opposition to homosexuality.
Shortly after the verdict, Indian National League (INL), a Muslim political party, put up posters in public areas of the temple city of Madurai, calling homosexuality an assault on “traditional values.”
On Jan. 5, the state capital, Chennai, saw the first rally by Christians against Homosexuality, a newly formed collective of members of clergy and lay persons of diverse denominations. The fear- and hate- mongering group conflated homosexuality with pedophilia, claimed homosexuality was a Western important and warned parents of the allegedly dire consequences of decriminalizing homosexuality.
Responding to this hate speech, a collective of LGBT and heterosexual Christians have formed a collective called Christians against Homophobia, and had a press conference after the hate rally on Jan. 5, citing Biblical messages of love and acceptance.
Current activist efforts are focusing on using LGBT-affirming voices from among the communities of faith to counter the ignorance and hate.
L. Ramakrishnan works at the non-profit Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India (SAATHII) in Chennai, India. He is part of the volunteer team that is archiving materials on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code at 377.orinam.net.
- Roman Catholic leaders in India support LGBT rights (76crimes.com)
- Gay people are not criminals,’ says Cardinal Gracias (catholicherald.co.uk)
- Indian Priests Directed to “Speak More Sensitively” on LGBT Issues (news.queerchurch.com)
- Global outcry against anti-gay Indian court ruling (76crimes.com)
- New count: 83 countries where homosexuality is illegal (76crimes.com)
- India turns back the clock, restores anti-gay law (76crimes.com)
- Catholic Hierarchy Is a Shining Light in Dark Moment for LGBT Rights in India (Bondings 2.0)