Delhi High Court to hear pleas of sodomy law victims

July 1st, 2008 - 5:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Monobina Gupta
New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) Delhi High Court will Wednesday begin hearing final arguments against India’s sodomy law and the anguished accounts of those charged under it. The hearings come three days after Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) individuals conducted simultaneous ‘Gay Pride’ marches in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore - but the two events are unconnected

For the first time since the hearings challenging section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), that bars same-sex acts, began in 2001, the court will hear the voices of the victims who are at the receiving end of the law.

LGBT individuals have filed 15 affidavits narrating the violence and abuse they have suffered at the hands of the police and others.

“These are voices of intervention - of those who have suffered because of section 377,” Siddharth of the Bangalore NGO Alternative Law Forum told IANS.

“We wanted to make the strategy more intrusive, putting across the extent of violence that goes on against LGBT persons,” said Mayur Suresh, a lawyer and a member of Voices against 377, a coalition of NGOs.

The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) has documented these affidavits.

Twenty-two year-old Kokila, a resident of Bangalore, identifying herself as a eunuch, described in her affidavit how 10 rowdies had raped her on the night of June 18, 2004.

“While I was being sexually assaulted, two policemen arrived… instead of registering a case against the rowdies (two of whom were nabbed), the policemen used offensive language against me,” said Kokila.

They took her to a police station with two rowdies but “they did not allow me to put on my trousers and forced me to remain naked for the next seven hours. I was subjected to brutal torture in the police station,” said Kokila.

The police let her go at three in the morning after “prolonged physical and sexual abuse.”

“Because section 377 penalises unnatural sex, it is difficult for me to freely express my sexual and gender identity. The brutal violence and rape that I have faced is the direct result of the fact that I am a transgender person,” Kokila maintained.

“The police and the goondas (rowdies) feel free to rape and torture me as they feel my existence as a transgender person is illegal in this country,” she added.

Anand, 26, in his affidavit said: “I identify myself as a kothi, a person who, though born male prefers to dress as a woman. I am sexually attracted to men.”

His parents, unable to face the “shame” - induced by Anand’s feminine behaviour, asked him to leave. Anand survived a suicide attempt and then left home with Rs.500 in his pocket. He travelled first to the temple town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh and then to Bangalore.

“I made friends with some hijras (eunuchs) and they helped me get a job at Bangalore Dairy on Hosur Road,” said Anand, who has also walked the streets as a sex worker.

In 2001, Anand was raped by a policeman and seven others.

“I could not even complain about the rape and torture because I would be immediately suspected of having had unnatural sex under section 377,” he said.

“Moreover, filing such a complaint would require me to submit myself to the police, who were the very people who raped and tortured me,” Anand said.

“Section 377 not only allows the police to brutally rape and extort money from me but also prevents me from accessing legal remedies to protect myself,” he stressed.

The section states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Naaz Foundation, an NGO working on HIV/AIDS and sexual health concerns, was the first to file a petition in 2001 seeking the repeal of Section 377.

In 2002, Delhi High Court refused to hear the matter, questioning the Naaz Foundation’s right to file the case. The foundation then appealed to the Supreme Court, which asked the high court to reconsider the matter on its merits.

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