NO GOING BACK SECTION 377

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The morning coffee just smells perfect in the backdrop of Delhi’s untimely rainy showers in a still pleasantly warm April 2018. The newspaper reads: “Delhi University student’s murder: Ayush, Ishtiyaq met on dating application ‘Tinder’’, indeed a disturbing news to start one’s day with! A lot of uneasy questions suddenly pop up in my insecure mind as I meticulously go through the story. Two total strangers, a couple of ‘online’ conversations followed by brutal beatings and kidnapping for ransom, victim of course a gay man, finally leading to a murder, police still investigating the case.

Just after 47 days from the date of this incident, happens to be International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) observed globally to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBT people. The abovementioned violence case towards young gay man is just the tip of iceberg which has surfaced in the public eyes, a majority of them totally go unnoticed most of the times!

National data on incidents of violence and discrimination against LGBT community is limited, abet only a few sources are available which is mostly captured from the community based organization during the HIV/AIDS prevention interventions. A five year data (2011-2015) from India HIV/AIDS Alliance implemented Pehchan project focusing on health & human rights of MTH (MSM, transgender and Hijra) population reports 2898 individuals reported discrimination, harassment & violence out of which 1335 individuals were directly subjected to violence. The main perpetrators of violence in MSM population were local goons (35%), followed by regular partners and family members (32%). The same data shows Trans and Hijra populations were on the receiving end from their regular partners (20%) as far as violence was concerned followed by family members (17%) and general community (16%).

India presently is at an interesting crossroads as far as the long battle to read down the criminalization of same sex sexual acts i.e. Indian Penal Code Section 377 is concerned. The final version of the recognition of Transgender People (Right) Bill is on the cards. As for section 377, from the first petition filed against it in 1994 till the curative petition referred to the constitution bench by the honorable supreme court of India in 2016, the whole journey has been quiet a rollercoaster ride where IPC 377 was even read down by the High court of Delhi in 2009 and further overturning the Delhi High Court’s decision was reinstated by the Supreme court of India in the year 2013, something very much like the rains today unpredictable but true.

There is an urgent need for intervention in strengthening advocacy around LGBT rights in regard to the curative petition which will be heard latest by August 2018. India HIV/AIDS Alliance prepares to celebrate diversity and strength of LGBT community in IDHOT week on Saturday, May 19th 2018, named ‘National Solidarity Event: The Law Isn’t Straight!’ in Delhi with important stakeholders including the government, national and local LGBT groups, individuals, media, law enforcement, judiciary authorities and celebrities supporting the cause. The event will be conducted in two parts, from 10.30 am to 4 p.m. there will be important community consultation will be conducted in Scope Convention Center, Lodhi Road and in the evening LGBT community will unite to amplify voices through cultural programmes and slogans to mainstream issues of queer community and influence media.

As I leave for work putting aside my coffee, my thoughts fast forward themselves in the month of August 2018 when the final hearing on section 377 by the Honorable Supreme Court of India will take place and LGBT community will unite for their human rights under one umbrella!

Blog by, Sylvester Merchant, Advocacy officer. India HIV / AIDS Alliance

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