This article was submitted by PhD student and NUPSA Vice-President, Anish Saini.
The whole world celebrated Pride month in June. Even at the University, Pride Week was celebrated in the last week of August. However, my Pride Day/Week/Month/Year started on September 6, 2018. This is the day when the Honorable Supreme Court of India struck down part of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, de-criminalising homosexuality and bringing joy to millions of people in the country.
To really understand the true joy of this verdict, we will have to go back in time. It was 2009 when the Delhi High Court struck down the draconian Section 377. It was also the time when I slowly started to realise my own sexuality. I was not out then, but was still a bit more confident because I did not have to worry about the police snooping around. Then in 2013, when I was thinking about coming out, the Honorable Supreme Court of India overturned the High Court order, making homosexuality a criminal offence again.
I was shattered. When people throughout the country were talking about progress, peace and loving everyone, I couldn’t understand how they could take such a decision. It was hard for me to believe that a culture once considered among the most progressive, the one that taught the world how to have sex through the Kamasutra, the one that has its gods represented as sexual organs, the one that has several temples depicting various sex positions, how that same culture was taking two steps backwards. That, day I decided I would do all I could to move out of my country and, a couple of years later, I landed in Australia.
It was a pleasant change to come to Australia. I could see that people were so much more accepting, and one had no worry as to what the other person thought of your sexuality. I attended my first Mardi Gras and I felt so ecstatic, I yearned for the same to happen back home. For the first since coming here, I had friends who were out and proud. That gave me so much more confidence to come out to people, and I have not looked back since.
I proudly supported the YES campaign and had goosebumps when the postal voting results were declared. A few months later, I too shed tears when the marriage equality bill was passed. Those were tears of joy – joy to see that yes, progress can happen, however slow it may be. That if you keep working bit by bit, it will happen. There were also some tears of pain, because I did not know when the same would happen in the country that represents one sixth of the world’s population.
Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long to see the first steps towards this change. After a lot of anticipation on September 6, the five-judge panel unanimously ended the 158-year-old Victorian era law. They wrote down a 493-page verdict that struck a confessional note, saying “history owes an apology to LGBTQ members and their families” for the wrongs inflicted on them.
Some other excerpts from the verdict were, “A free society is when every individual is liberated from shackles of social exclusion, identity seclusion and isolation from the mainstream,” and, “Freedom of choice cannot be scuttled or paralysed on the mercurial stance of majority.” Again, I had tears in my eyes. They were tears of relief. I was no longer a criminal in my own country. Finally, my passport and citizenship gave me almost the same rights as anyone else.
While we may not yet have reached the same destination as many other countries, we have surely taken the first step in the right direction. Millions of people and their families can now be at peace.