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India after 377

Thu 11 Nov 2010 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

On July 2 2009, Delhi's High Court struck down antigay Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a vestige of the British Raj of the nineteenth century. How have Indian LGBTs fared since then? Well, it isn't quite over- the Indian Supreme Court has yet to confirm the Delhi High Court's ruling from last year, but there is no organised Indian antigay movement. Before the Delhi High Court's landmark decision, though, gay men could face ten years imprisonment, while lesbians and gay men alike could also undergo involuntary medical treatment and ECT. Given that it also seriously interfered with HIV/AIDS prevention, the Naz Foundation and Against 377, a coalition of human rights and civil liberties groups that supported homosexual law reform, filed a Public Interest Litigation case, which led to the eventual decision last year. Despite repeal, antigay and transphobic discrimination is still widespread, across homes, offices and within education,complicated by India's caste system. In some rural communities, transgender and intersex hijras occupy a religious niche, although many are forced to turn to sex work to support themselves as India urbanises. Paradoxically too, the decriminalisation decision occurred at a time of growing government authoritarianism and intolerance of other social movements. As with many New Zealand LGBT community activists, questions of ethnicity, indigenous rights, class and gender identity concern India's LGBT communities. It remains to be seen what effects last year's landmark decision will have on a sprawling, diverse country, marred by extremes of poverty and immiseration. Recommended: Laura Purvis: "Feminist legal scholar from India speaks about the repeal of gay sex law" Xtra: 19.10.2010:  

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 11th November 2010 - 9:56am

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