In spite of the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict to strike down Section 377 last month, Anjali Gopalan, one of the first petitioners against the British-era law, feels there is still a long way to go.
“The verdict has only decriminalised homosexuality. But it still has not legalised it,” said Anjali, at a session on ‘Winning on #377’ at the Bangalore Literature Festival.
Sharing the experience of a homosexual couple who had lived together for 30 years, she said when one of them took ill, his partner was not allowed to visit him and after his death he was not even allowed to attend the funeral.
“Members of the community still have to fight for access to their partners and their life apart from healthcare and all forms of civil rights,” said Anjali, Founder of Naz Foundation.
Anjali took the first major step toward decriminalising it in 2001 when she filed her first petition in the Delhi High Court. “Parents would approach me for counselling their homosexual children. When a boy I had counselled returned to me after a few months I was taken aback. He had been administered shock treatment at a hospital in Delhi to be made straight. That is what pushed me to approach the court,” said the activist.
Narrating her experience as a litigant, she said she has even faced threats. “Violence is an issue we have to deal with. But courts are the way to go as we do not see the legislature taking a stand. Individually, the lawmakers tell me they agree with me, but they do not support it in Parliament. Things will change only if younger people come to power.”
Anjali feels that though the Supreme Court judgement has helped the LGBTQ community feel more valued, they still face social stigma.
She told DH on the sidelines of the event, “Change doesn’t happen at the pace we want it to. But we cannot give up. We need to push the legislature to bring about changes and continue to work with people to bring a change in attitude. We could also work towards a change in curriculum to bring in more awareness,” she said.