While the Trump administration here in the United States has been busy attacking the LGBTQ community by announcing they will kick transgender members out of the military, over in India, the justice system has been doing the opposite and ensuring the rights of LGBTQ people are protected.
The Supreme Court has declared that the country’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community has the right to freely express their sexuality without fear of punishment or any other repercussions. The nine-panel judge made the landmark decision in late August, saying the individual’s sexual orientation is protected under the country’s Right to Privacy law.
“Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform,” the decision read, as reported by the Huffington Post.
The court decision cited the Indian constitution’s aspects pertaining to liberty, despite the fact that the government claimed there was no legal right to privacy. This ruling means any form of discrimination toward an LGBTQ individual, for instance in the workforce or when it comes to applying for housing, can be legally challenged within the justice system.
While this is a major victory for equality, it should be noted that India has yet to decriminalize same-sex relationships. But that may eventually happen as rulings such as this one are handed down. Civil rights advocates are hoping this new declaration will help overturn a controversial law in the Indian Penal Code – Section 377 – limits a citizen’s right to express their gender identity or sexual orientation in consensual relationships.
That section bans sexual activity that is “against the order of nature”. Many have interpreted the wording to include gay sex. In 2009 the Delhi High Court dismissed that particular section, but the Supreme Court eventually overruled that, declaring it was the Parliament’s job to to make changes to the law, not the justice system.
According to Business Insider, another challenge to Section 377 is underway, and with this new Supreme Court ruling, it could mean the challenge has a different outcome.
It should be noted that India is still largely a very conservative society, but there are areas where major progress is being made, and in many ways this progress has come through Supreme Court decisions. In 2014 it ruled that transgender people should be officially recognized as a third gender.
“It is the right of every human being to choose their gender,” the ruling stated, and ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.
And just recently, the Supreme Court ruled that triple talaq, or “instant divorce”, a practice that is most prominent among Muslim communities which disproportionately affects women, is unconstitutional. The ruling was said to be a major win for Muslim women and gender equality.
The decision regarding freedom of sexual expression means more people in the LGBTQ community can speak openly about their lives without shame. One prominent figure who has been doing this for a while, however, is Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who came out in 2006. He became known as the first openly gay prince and has been fighting for the LGBTQ community.
He began a campaign in 2014 called “Free Gay India” which caught the attention of the United States, where he was a guest on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show’ as well as ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’. He told the famous reality TV family that people burned effigies of him once he came out, but it has not stopped him from speaking.
“I knew that my coming out would definitely make a difference,” he said. He has also appeared on an episode of OWN’s ‘Where Are They Now’, which you can watch below.
Here’s hoping these incremental equality measures will eventually lead to marriage equality and people of all genders being able to live with the full rights and freedoms. Kudos to the Indian Supreme Court for ruling in favor of the people.