‘SC Gave LGBT Legal Protection; Safety, Acceptance Yet To Come’
Raga Olga D’silva, an LGBT advocate, author and entrepreneur, says the Supreme Court helped pave the way. Now, society has to take it forward
September 6 is a very special day for all of us in the LGBTQ community, whether out or in the closet. Three years ago on this day, the Supreme Court upturned Section 377 which criminalised consensual private sexual conduct between adults of the same sex. The penal provision said: “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Imagine if we had such laws in a heteronormative world!
The sense of freedom one felt cannot be expressed in words. I no longer had to legally hide my sexual preference. I no longer had to pretend around authorities about my same sex relationship. Legally, I became finally protected. But does that make me feel safe?
Protection and safety are two separate concepts. One provides you the option of lawfully living your life with no fear. The latter is based on society, their mindsets and how evolved they are to accept us. Thus, I am yet to feel safe. I still walk around waiting for someone to throw a slur at me, judge me, shame me, abuse me and ridicule me. I still get hateful trolls.
Has making the Section 377 unconstitutional allowed me the rights I would take for granted if I lived a heterosexual life? I still do not enjoy all the privileges that come with such freedom. Banks are just about beginning to value the ‘pink’ rupee and the ‘value’ the LGBTQ community contributes to the economy. Insurance companies, schools, universities, hospitals, are still catching up.
The corporate world is just about joining the bandwagon and have started looking at equality, diversity, and inclusion as part of what they offer their employees. This is extremely important as many of us come from homophobic backgrounds, due to lack of understanding and awareness. We do spend a lot of time at our workplace and any sensitisation towards the community will only create ally-ship and help bring in inclusion and equity.
Schools and universities are inviting more voices from the community to help raise awareness and acceptance. Some of the stories we hear from the community are heart-breaking; particularly as we hear about homophobic teachers and administration. This needs to change, as our schools and universities need to ensure we teach people about equality, love and human rights. It must start with our teachers.
The next step is to introduce laws around discrimination. I hope we create laws that will ensure our safety at all levels. That marriage rights are given to us. Adoption rights are given to us. And all those rights that a heterosexual couple enjoy are given to us. We make excellent parents, and research indicates that. My children have been brought up by two mothers and they live a life of non-judgement. We need such stories and narratives so we can together create a world that is inclusive and does not judge people on their own prejudices.
However, life hasn’t really changed much for me. I live in the UK, with regular travel into India. I live two lives. I am an openly gay woman in the UK but when I cross into Indian borders, I go back into my shell.
The fear lives in me. The mindsets are still far from reaching its maturity. There is a large populace who believe my same sex relationship is illegal, shameful, an illness and abnormal. Until that changes, I will be forever in hiding.
My partner and I started ‘coming out stories from India’ as a series on my YouTube Channel to bring real lived experiences and role models to those who need such awareness. A story I wrote loosely based on my life is being made into a film by the critically acclaimed filmmaker Onir. I am writing my memoirs of my struggle of internalised homophobia and the challenges.
The narrative will change, I truly believe, but one story, one ally, one voice, one narrative at a time. The Supreme Court has helped pave the way. Now, let’s take it forward. Together.
As Told To Mamta Sharma