Reading down of 377 doesn’t solve all problems. It just creates a foundation to build solutions for those problems. On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India read down Section 377 and sex between two same-sex consenting adults was no more illegal. It was something that was snatched from us in December 2013 and we were desperate to get it back. We celebrated it. We waited at the doors of the Chief Justice while he gave the verdict. We drenched ourselves in heavy rains but came out at Jantar Mantar to tell the world about our newly found and very coveted Azaadi.
But is this Azaadi absolute? Does this put an end to all the problems that we, as a community are facing? It doesn’t. I can still be discriminated at a workplace – be it government or private. My friends still fear to come out in their colleges because of bullying. I am still not comfortable to tell my landlord that the person whom I am living with is not my friend but my partner. I am still afraid of discrimination, blackmail and violence.
377 has been read down but does the police know? Do they understand what it means? Will it be too late till the time I would assert this? Such questions still haunt my mind. I still can’t say that I feel free to live with my partner or that I feel equal.
I moved in with my partner more than a year ago. We have lived together since and I feel we have more love than many hetero relationships and marriages that I see. But we got no rights as partners. My insurance doesn’t cover him. And since he is not Indian, we have to keep applying either a tourist visa or business visa for him so that we can just be together! Post visa, we keep running to government offices for his registration where I am not allowed to accompany him when meeting an official.
I remember speaking to Mihir Samson on the judgement day. Mihir is a lawyer and has played a key role in the journey of the case against 377. Being excited about 377 read down, I naively asked him when can I can marry my partner. Mihir said marriage is a long way to go.
Mihir told me that the work to ensure quality for the LGBT community has just begun. And he was indeed right. There are so many laws that need to change and the new ones need to come. He said that an equality law has to be enacted to prevent discrimination in employment, education and in medical settings. The constitution needs to recognise the complex personal relationships queer people form in their everyday life inside or outside the marriage. Indian Penal Code needs to be amended to protect from sexual assault and the domestic violence laws need to be extended to protect the community from family violence and even intimate partner violence.
Standing at the Supreme Court that day and pondering about it, I realised that the battle for the queer community has indeed just begun. There is so much to do before we could feel that our love is just as sacred as anyone else’s. That it deserves the same rights and that we are truly free and Azaad.
Story By – Harsh Agarwal – He is an author and entrepreneur, working in the development sector for the advancement of LGBTQ rights in India.
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