IDAHOTB: Life After 377, And The Road Ahead
17 May 2019 4:29 pm
Today, on May 17, we at Amnesty India celebrate the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). This IDAHOTB, we reflect on the events that changed the lives of many Indians in the last one year and bring you the voices from the community.
On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalising consensual sexual relationships between same-sex adults. The reading down of this 158-year old colonial and controversial provision signalled an end to the legal prejudice faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
Two months later, on 17 December 2018, the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 which left the transgender community particularly exposed to multiple vulnerabilities. The Bill, despite being publicised as a step towards bringing justice to the transgender community in India, left so much out. Currently, it is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Ahead of IDAHOTB, we spoke to Prerna Waghela and Aniket Wanjale who work with Amnesty India about their life post the Supreme Court judgment and their hopes for the future.
Tell us about yourself and your work with Amnesty India.
Prerna: I am a trans-woman. I earned a Master’s in Education from University of Bombay and since then I have been working with NGOs on projects related to HIV prevention and community mobilisation. Since 2016, I have been a part of Amnesty India. I manage the training and skill development of all the fundraisers across the country.
Aniket: I studied engineering but found my calling in activism. I am a feminine gay man and I have tried to raise solidarity by spreading awareness about our rights. I also joined Amnesty India in 2016. Currently, I work as a Training and Development Coordinator building the capacities and human rights knowledge of fundraisers in Pune, Maharashtra.
What did the Section 377 verdict mean to you?
Aniket: Light exists – that’s what I thought when I heard the verdict. Starting 6 September 2018, I was no longer a criminal. But our real struggle is not in the courtrooms. It’s in the bedrooms, kitchens and boardrooms. We have taken the first step towards that, but still have a long way to go.
Prerna: It meant that the long battle I fought within myself about my sexual orientation and gender identity was now over. Acceptance by the highest court of this country has given me courage and encouraged me to fight the outward battle with more confidence.
How has your life changed since the verdict?
Prerna: I have to say that the verdict brought a lot of my friends out of the closet. They do not have to hide their identity anymore. They are able to share their struggles openly and at least think of living their life the way they want. Such open conversations have highlighted the fact that many members of my community are educated yet unemployed.
We plan to organise ourselves and work with the Government of Maharashtra and other corporate organisations to see how these deserving people can be absorbed into the work pool.
Aniket: The verdict has ensured that my love is not a criminal act anymore. But I don’t feel a lot has changed at a personal, professional or social front. Because on those levels, individual mindsets need to change. The situation is similar to women’s rights. Despite the right to equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India, women have to face entrenched prejudices. I feel political or legal change doesn’t necessarily change the attitude of people and definitely not overnight. That’s a struggle which has to be fought every single day.
What do you hope for the future?
Aniket: I hope to see LGBTI rights woven into the school curriculum. I hope it makes the children of the future proud, as reading about the civil rights movement in our text books made us proud – to know how far the country has come. Personally, I wait for the day when it is no longer brave to be gay!
Prerna: I hope for our inclusion – both at an institutional and social level. I patiently wait for the day when society will accept us with open arms and encourage us to pursue our dreams.
My heart sinks to think of my community, majority of which is still uneducated and poor due to systemic exclusion. What will be their fate and who will be responsible for their lives?
Would you like to share your thoughts on your life since the verdict and your hopes for the future? Write to us at [email protected]