Section 377 is an online photographic exhibition celebrating the road to freedom for millions of Indians from 2013 to September 6th, 2018 when India's Supreme Court struck down the ban which criminalised same-sex relations and had existed for 157 years.
Section 377 India is also an online protest as the fight for freedom still continues. Despite striking down the law which criminalised same-sex relations in 2018, in India same-sex marriage remains illegal, same-sex couples cannot adopt children and LGBT+ conversion therapy centres are active throughout the country, centres which harm thousands of children each year.
India legalised same-sex relations in 2009 but in 2013 India's Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex that could see LGBT+ individuals jailed for up to ten years in a major setback for millions of people in the world's biggest democracy.
The law had become a weapon for harassment for the LGBT+ community," Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Indian LGBT+ activists hold placards as they demonstrate against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of Section 377 in Bangalore on January 28, 2014. India's top court rejected a plea filed by the government and activist groups to review its shock ruling which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex.
Activists demand justice and police look on as Indian LGBT+ supporters demonstrate against their rights being stripped away. Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of humanity is not in being human, but in being humane.” These brave protesters simply demanded the same compassion Gandhi demanded of British oppressors during India's fight for independence.
REACHING FOR FREEDOM
An Indian sexual minority community protester gestures over a rainbow flag while participating in a Rainbow Pride Walk in Kolkata on July 7, 2013. Thousands of LGBT+ activists participated in the rally to equal rights for their community.
India decided to police love. Two women decided to start a revolution.
Many people do not realise that two incredible women, two lawyers, Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy fought a long term campaign to overturn the 157 year old colonial law which criminalised same-sex relations.
Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy stood as symbols of justice for the LGBT+ community and worked hard to ensure that equality would prevail.
In 2019 these two amazing women revealed that following their efforts fighting for justice, they had become a couple. Love should never be policed. Love should always be celebrated.
Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy had the key help of six brave petitioners who challenged the Indian supreme court. We salute these six courageous warriors of love who helped in securing the rights for millions of people…
The only female judge on the supreme court assigned to the case, Justice Indu Malhotra, stated “history owes an apology to LGBT+ people and their families.” History also owes an apology to the women of India, who have often been at the centre of positive change but rarely get the credit they deserve.
On 6 September 2018, the Court ruled unanimously in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India that Section 377 was unconstitutional "in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex”.
The judgment was given by a five judges bench comprising the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justices R F Nariman, D Y Chandrachud, A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, the world’s first openly gay prince, was also a key activist in the journey to legalise same-sex relations. He had championed LGBT+ rights at an international level, appearing on Oprah Winfrey, BBC, and NBC to promote the urgent case for equal rights. Prince Manvendra said: “Gay rights can’t only be won in the courtroom, they have to be won in the hearts and minds of the people, too.”
"We fought against all the atrocities. We are from the community and we experienced threats and blackmail in the name of Section 377. So, we organised a community meeting and resolved to file a petition."
one of India's leading trans activists
Members of the LGBT+ community celebrate the Supreme Court decision to strike down the colonial-era ban on gay sex, in Mumbai on September 6, 2018. The court ruled that LGBT people in India are entitled to all constitutional rights, including the liberties protected by the Constitution of India.
THE FIGHT IS NOT OVER
Legalise Same-Sex Marriage
Same-sex marriage remains illegal. In India the only form of union between two partners acknowledged by law is marriage. This is why it is so important to give the LGBT+ community the dignity they deserve and legalise same-sex marriage.
In other countries which adopt anti-LGBT+ leglislation, such as Poland, India is often cited as an example of a democracy where same-sex marriage is not allowed. India should lead by example as this not only impacts Indian citizens but sends a message of equality to the rest of the world.
Legalise Same-Sex Adoption
According to a recent study by charity, SOS Children's Villages India, over 20 million + children are orphaned throughout India. If same-sex couples are allowed to adopt, this uplifts India and helps give more ophaned children an opportunity to find caring & loving homes.
End LGBT+ Conversion Therapy
Only five countries in the world have banned LGBT+ conversion therapy centres. In a developing country such as India, these centres are harmful places for children and adults who are often tortured and abused for declaring themselves LGBT+
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil was a victim of conversion therapy where he endured electroshock practices and psychological abuse. In keeping with being a symbol of positivity, India needs to lead by example for the rest of the world and eradicate all conversion therapy centres across the country.