By Sandhya S, NewsKarnataka -Bangalore
Arvind Narrain, an author, a gay activist and a lawyer at Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum has been a member of the legal team that has been fighting the petition in courts for over a decade, for the LGBT community.
Arvind who spoke to NewsKarnataka, discussed the issues of the LGBT community in the society and conveyed the disappointment over the December 11, 2013 SC judgment upholding the constitutionality of Section 377 and leaving the decision to amend or retain, to the Indian Parliament.
Arvind Narrain of Alternative Law Forum
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
We live in a hypocritical society, what would you say with regards to the social portrayal of the LGBT community?
The much celebrated Judgment given by the Delhi High Court on July 2nd 2009, declared section 377 of the Indian Penal code unconstitutional with respect to sex between consenting adults. After the decision was given out by the High Court there has been a profound amount of change, they are a group of minorities within the society. Like every minority group, they are not accepted in the beginning. Acceptance is secondary, if one goes by the thoughts of Dr Ambedkar.
How do you consider the judgment given by SC (Where you shocked on the verdict or where u expecting it)?
The centre stage law makers in India are people who mainly belong to few Christian and Muslim centrist groups, thus the judgment was likely to be how it has come. But certainly that day represents as a “Black Day” for the community and it was truly shocking.
Do you think that India will ever accept the gay or lesbian culture?
I would like to quote Dr Ambedkar who said , “My Children the change has already accepted.” The society has already accepted the LGBT community, till 2009 people had a certain conception about the LBGT community.
Same-sex couples who enter into a civil union even in developed countries are denied equal access to all the benefits, rights, and privileges provided by federal law to married couples.What do you have to say about this?
The constitutional law and the frame work of every constitution changes from place to place. Inequality sustain not just selectively towards the LGBT community but also many other minorities. Apparently the discrimination and the oppression towards the LGBT community is more in African and Asian countries.
Activists have filed a review petition against the Supreme Court judgment on Section 377, do you think it may be fruitful or will the law change?
Whether this will happen through legislation or not is something we will consider but, we are hopeful and are looking at exploring the legal options before including review petitions. There certainly has been a social change but as far as the law is considered we are optimistic.
Do you believe it is the duty of the parliament to address such issues rather than courts making judgment?
Fundamentally the High Court ascertained that irrespective of one’s sexual orientation the larger section of the society cannot deprive the social and constitutional morality as well as they cannot deny rights to one set of people. It is not subject to one constituency rather it is a collaborated judgment that can be made by the parliament as well as the court.
Do you feel that it is a matter of one’s right and not a social issue of ethics thus no one has an authority to interpret in someone’s privacy?
With reference to the LGBT community, I would use the term Dignity rather than ascertaining it to Privacy. The intimate lives of the community are integrally linked to the dignity of a human being.
The Congress has been trying to take interest in the LGBT community.Do you think that they are genuinely concerned or is it just a political stunt?
We appreciate support that might come from any party, it is not a political affair still if any party would favor the LGBT community we will welcome their support.
India being a religious country, and for the fact that Hindu and Vedic texts describe about transcending gender norms and manifesting multiple combinations of sex and gender, what do you think has made Indian negligent towards LGBT rights?
This is merely an imposition of views; the law which adjudicates the constitutional validity is based on the 140 year old colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime. A majority of them accepted this law which in-turn brought negligence. But The Constitution of India says that, No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law still the court has left it on the majorities to decide.
How can we educate society towards acceptance?
In Argentina a school going child thought that his uncle is going to marry a man, that’s the way the culture is depicted. Educational programs, public campaign, literature and other such aspects certainly cater but what has to be articulated and changed is the mind-set. It has to be understood and acknowledged that a bond between consenting adults is a normal gesture.
What do you have to say with regards to the depiction of the LGBT community in the media?
The media has been educating the society positively and the so called popular Hindi cinema also has been acting optimistically affirmative towards the issue.
If you had to say something to the people who are against the section 377, what will you say?
Everyone has a right to express their point of view and this can be a debatable subject, but criminalizing it is completely wrong. LGBT community is the minuscule part of the Indian population, but the majority has no rights to impose views and discriminate the minority regardless of what they think or feel. We see this issue as a fundamental right and do not urge anyone for acceptance rather we urge for decimalization of the act because it acts as a communal law.