With the Supreme Court putting its verdict on Section 377 on ‘Reserve’, the battle is still perhaps only half-won. As the central government, or at least, the Prime Minister continues to stay quiet on the issue, an introspection is in order. India’s political climate spells “misty and foggy” when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. The parties stride cautiously, not wanting to lose the conservative vote bank, but shouldn’t there be more to politics than that?
Our democratic roots
The infamous Section 377 hampers the Right to freedom, Right to privacy in India, a country that glorifies its own struggle for freedom. A knack for ironies? Introduced in 1861 by the British colonisers, the law has been in controversies since the early wake of the 21st century. Notably, Britain scraped off the criminalization of homosexuality in 1967, while India continues to uphold it. Out of all the things we inherited from their country, we chose to keep bigotry.
The tug of war with politics
In a war where personal agendas are at stake, people often shift sides as and when it pleases them. The same seems to have happened with queer rights in India. Take Congress for instance. The party has often urged for a liberal image, of an organisation that promotes individuals’ liberty. In 2013, when the Apex court overruled the decision made by the Delhi High Court (scraping off Section 377 in 2009), Congress was among the first to protest. However, the court stated that removing or keeping Section 377 should be a decision made by the legislation, and it was free to do so. No conclusive change took place, however.
Notably back in 2009, when the UPA government was asked for an opinion on Section 377 by the Supreme Court, two different ministries submitted different opinions. One in favour, the other in support. In 2013, however, Congress was quick to show support to the LGBTQ+ community. Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MLA has addressed the issue in parliament multiple times. In 2006, he proposed the Anti-discrimination and Equality Bill, but even his fellow party members were unwilling to stand by him, and the bill wasn’t passed. The question then arises, was it in the wake of the upcoming elections of 2014, that Congress decided to put on a more liberal suit?
The position of our ruling party, BJP, though unusually quiet for Modi Ji, is more or less known. The right wing party is often in controversies for arguably spreading a Hinduism agenda. It comes as no surprise then, that BJP leaders like Subramanian Swamy have been quoted calling homosexuality against Hindutva. He went one step ahead, calling it a threat to national security, but that’s a story for another day. The earlier BJP Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley is among the few faces in the party who have suggested that Section 377 be scraped off.
As the nation waits for the Supreme Court judgment, politics seems to have oozed into queer lives. Individual choices and identities are being seen through the lens of politicians’ judgment of morality. Our political parties stay silent, or as passive as possible on the issue. Have queer lives and their activism boiled down to mere agendas, to be spun off during election times?