From closet to freedom for India’s gays, two years on

July 1st, 2011 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) What would you make of 377, 2/7, 730? Could be a code or a logical reasoning question. But, for queers, 377 is the Indian Penal Code section that denied them the right to love for over a century, 2/7 is when the Delhi High Court famously read down the section and 730 the number of days since homosexuality has been decriminalised in India.

It was exactly two years ago on July 2, 2009, that the high court struck down provisions of Section 377 saying that it violated the fundamental right of life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed in the constitution.

The fate of the case still rests with the Supreme Court, but these past months have seen many uncertain steps out of the closet, many shunning the baggage of their doubly-led lives and many forgiving themselves for the crime they never committed.

While gay parody continues to provide comic relief in unintelligent movies and homophobes still dominate, the very mention of terms like LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) and gay rights in the public domain has brought a whiff of fresh air to the stale-aired closets.

Strong enough for someone like 27-year-old Shruti Prabhu of Chennai to wake up from her prolonged slumber two years back.

“Though I always knew that I liked girls, I never knew how to define it. When everyone started talking about it on TV and papers, I understood I was a lesbian,” Shruti told IANS over phone.

“Now I have slowly started coming out,” she said.

Then there’s Dolly, who unlike Shruti had long discovered her sexual preference but it was the historic judgment that helped her fight everyday prejudice.

“Recently, I went to a travel agency to get a holiday package for me and my partner. The woman there refused, saying the package was only for married couples or heterosexual live-in partners.”

“I gave her a little lecture on how homosexuality has been decriminalised and how she is turning away a huge chunk of business and she gave in,” the Bangalore-based Dolly said.

The real difference in the last two years has been the spurt of LGBT support groups and queer-centric events that provide the shaky first steps out of the closet a steady ground.

“Three years back, if you wanted to get into the queer circle, it was almost impossible because all the parties used to take place in utter secrecy. But now, everything is out in the open.

“There are so many more platforms to socialise, network. It’s very easy for someone fresh out of the closet to meet people,” said Divya Khanna, who works in a multinational company in Delhi.

Agreed Pune-based Sagar. “Pride parades, movie festivals and gay-centric events have been the best outcome of the judgment. It has made the homosexual agenda a subject of public discussion which is amazing.”

And for Sowmya Reddy, July 2, 2009 was historic in more ways than one.

“I was in the US for four years, and the day I came back to India was July 2. I was busy in a function and when I heard the news… I was like no way.

“It was such a huge turning point, it made the issue mainstream,” said Reddy, an environment activist.

The 29-year-old is now planning to set up an NGO to spread awareness about sex education in schools. “Everything is so heteronormative around us. There are kids who are queer and they don’t know what’s happening to them. I want to reach out to them.”

Close on the heels of New York legalising gay marriage and the UN Human Rights Council passing a gay rights resolution, the demand for legalising same-sex marriage has gained steam in India as well.

“This is the chief reason why the break-up rate is so high in our community. I know some friends who have inked friendship bonds. But we need laws to recognise same-sex partnerships,” Divya told IANS.

But a nation whose polity gets stifled without the term identity, queer rights still have a long way to go. Till then, there’ll be many more 2/7s to celebrate.

(Some names have been changed on request, Mohita Nagpal can be contacted at

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