Do we actually know what it feels to be free? To many, it would seem like a rhetorical question but for those who have been called ‘criminals’ for the mere act of existing, it is a harrowing reminder of the sad reality. Breaking the shackles, on September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The SC observed that the right to love a consenting adult is an individual choice. The 150-odd-year-old colonial legacy was finally and rightly called “arbitrary and irrational.”
Two months later, as the world comes together to acknowledge the UN World Human Rights Day on December 10, OnePlus India has collaborated with Vice to applaud all those individuals of the LGBTQ+, who fought bravely for their right to equality. Featuring six individuals, including Mark Mascarenhas, the first Indian drag queen to launch India’s first ever LGBT track, the brand known for its never settle spirit has brought to life the discrimination and atrocities, and appeals to all to fight against inequality.
The vibrant and diverse Indian LGBTQ+ community now has a reason to rejoice but the journey till here has not been easy. The thoughts and words decreed in 1861 continued unshaken even as India transitioned to independence. The first legal gauntlet was thrown in 1994, but it was only in 2009 when it seemed there is a bright light at the end after all. The hope was short lived as the 2013 SC bench quashed a million dreams. However, the 2014 verdict on ‘third gender’ and the landmark September 2018 verdict gave the fundamental, basic, human rights back to the individuals who were persecuted for no fault of their own.
The persecution was multifaceted, systematic and all-encompassing and it’s still visible as a change in laws can not in-a-blink-of-an-eye drag the social mindset forward. The social pressure to be “normal” permeates the home-outside boundary. From parents and relatives to friends and colleagues, from ‘taunts’ to ‘psychological help’, the pressure forces one to withdraw in oneself. Many have been stigmatised, silenced throughout history and continue to be so but at least now there is hope that the only way from here, is up.
The fight is not yet over, far from it. The public and civil rights which are deemed inherent and fundamental by the Constitution are technically within reach, but the freedom to be oneself in a cruel world does come easy. Indeed, it is a fight which has just begun, a fight which can only be won if one and all come forward and proclaim to the world, that they as individuals, as a community, and as a nation will never settle with inequality and injustice.