As the Supreme Court in New Delhi last Thursday the
Crime of homosexual acts in India declared unconstitutional was one thing
Decision that affects 18 percent of humanity. So high is the Indian share of the
World population. It was one of the most massive expansions of freedom, one of the
largest anti-discrimination advances ever in history. Nearly
1.3 billion Indians had until then under a law from the British colonial era
lived in 1861, who had punished the "unnatural carnal intercourse".
Convictions under this "Section 377" of the Criminal Code were rare, but their mere
Existence meant a permanent threat and extortion potential and an official one
Abjuration of social prejudices.
India remains in many ways a socially conservative country, shaped by traditional morality. Discrimination against homosexuals will not stop abruptly. The reigning Hindu nationalist Indian People's Party (BJP) has not made official statements after the court ruling – but has already indicated in advance that it would reject more far-reaching reforms such as marriage for same-sex couples.
At the same time, the response to the verdict in the media and in urban India was overwhelmingly positive. Logos of companies and home users on social networks have been switched to the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ movement. A tea brand told its Instagram followers that "Rakesh and Rohan," two men, could now enjoy the same "taste of togetherness" (the company's slogan) as any hetero pair.
This article is from TIME no. 38/2018. Here you can read the entire issue.
The judges themselves know that their decision is only one step in a lengthy process. One of them called for the establishment of awareness-raising courses for police officers. The local guard is for millions of Indians, especially in the country, the most important, almost the only point of contact with the state – if the prevailing mentality does not change at this point, all supreme court statements little help. The sole judge in the decision-making chamber found that lesbians, gays, trans and bisexuals and their families deserved an apology for the long history of exclusion. It is an apology that would have to come from the Supreme Court: as late as 2013, a two-person committee of the court had upheld the constitutionality of the repealed punishment and declared the protection of fundamental rights for a supposedly "tiny" minority to be subordinate.
The decision is also a signal beyond India. The ban on same-sex sex was generally introduced in British overseas territories during the colonial epoch – and in many former colonies it still exists long after they have gained their independence. Not only in a country like Pakistan, where religious fundamentalism is particularly strong; From Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in India's immediate neighborhood to Malaysia and Singapore in Southeast Asia to Jamaica in the Caribbean, the same discriminatory legislation that India has now abolished still applies. Particularly dramatic is the situation in some African countries, where not only the penalties for same-sex sex have recently been tightened, but politicians sometimes maintain a glaring anti-gay hate rhetoric.
It is a standard claim of such homophobic demagogues in the global South that equality and respect for sexual minorities is a decadent import from the West: the expression of a new European-American cultural imperialism, with which traditional civilizations should be forced the ideas of alien hypermodernism. The verdict from New Delhi refutes this legend. India, with its history of Gandhi's peaceful liberation struggle, is something of the motherland of anti-imperialism, jealous of its sovereignty; What happens here can not simply be dismissed as an adaptation to the West. Behind the decriminalization of homosexuality there is no pressure from
but the commitment of civil society – and the memory
Remember that Indian culture is historically same-sex
Love was rather relaxed. For the fight against homophobia in developing and emerging countries, the decision brings a new, invigorating impulse.
In India itself, the ruling reinforces hope for justice as the guardian of tolerance and liberality. Under the BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a climate of ideological and social conformism has spread in recent years; Religious minorities, especially Muslims, but also political opponents of Hindu nationalism, feel intimidated and marginalized.
India's courts have a mixed record when it comes to showing the state power borders. In 2017, however, the Supreme Court, clearly against the will of the government, declared respect for privacy a constitutionally guaranteed claim of every citizen. It was a clear commitment to the rights of individuals, to attacks by the state or collective sentimental terror. The judges have affirmed this defense of individualism with their statement on homosexuality: not only some common morality, but only the free will of the person has to decide on their intimate life. In a country where couples are still being ostracized, torn apart or even killed for their love beyond caste or religious boundaries, this is a hugely important message.
In many of the comments made by activists and intellectuals about the decision, a motive emerged that is unusual in the Giants' normally self-centered debates. It was the encouraging contrast of this success and happiness experience with a global sentiment that seems otherwise marked by counter-enlightenment and regression. That makes the verdict beyond India precious. The author, Neel Mukherjee, who wrote a groundbreaking novel about the sexual self-liberation of a young Indian gay man in England ten years ago, expressed it simply and strongly: "In a moment when darkness is gathering all over the world, this message is reminiscent because there is light, too. "