Grace Poore delivering remarks at the Global Day of Rage in New York City. Photo by Emily Carson / IGLHRC.
The decision of the Supreme Court of India to reverse the 2009 ruling of the Delhi High Court and re-institute a discriminatory law, which criminalizes same sex relations between consenting adults, is tragic. In the 21st century, as the world moves towards human rights for everyone, the Supreme Court’s decision tethers India to a sodomy law that is a British colonial legacy. It is a very sad day for all people of India and those who look toward India for leadership in a modern age.
Courts around the world from Singapore to Zambia and advocates for LGBT human rights in the Asia Pacific, Africa, and the Caribbean have been looking to the Indian Courts to take down this British colonial law.
377 is a discriminatory law. 377 violates international human rights law. 377 violates the Indian Constitution, which defends the rights to equality, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, dignity and privacy. These are all universal rights for all people, whether they are LGBT or non LGBT.
We recognize that the decision of the Supreme Court is part of the political theater that surrounds the decision on 377. The government says it looks to the Court to test the constitutionality of India’s laws and punts 377 to the Court. The Court punts it back to the legislature and says it’s up to the state to decide whether 377 should be removed. The lives of LGBT people are being used as a hot potato.
I spoke to an official here in New York, at the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, and he said, these things take time. But there is no time. As long as there is a law on the books that criminalizes private decisions and private conduct between consenting adults, it prolongs the human rights violations perpetrated by police who have and will continue to use the law to threaten, harass, physically assault, blackmail and extort LGBT people.
When the Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalized homosexuality, there were global days of jubilation. In 2009 LGBT and non-LGBT people in India celebrated in the streets because the Delhi High Court understood that LGBT people like other segments of society who face historical oppression rely on judicial redress to facilitate access to justice. But in 2013, we are holding a global day of outrage because the Supreme Court has overturned the earlier progressive decision to decriminalize adult consensual same sex conduct. This decision sends a message that discrimination, persecution even violence against LGBT people are permissible because the law says same sex love and same sex relations are not legal. It reinforces to families that having a gay or lesbian family member is something to be condemned, and shameful, to be punished and stopped, with violence if necessary.
Indians all over and around the world know that it is right to remove 377 because it is an unjust law. To be sure some religious groups have argued that the law needs to stay. But there is nothing moral or culturally acceptable about 377. This law is an affront to religious teachings that promote respect for all people and non-violence.
Our presence here today is testament to the global outrage and disappointment with the regressive decision of India’s Supreme Court. We are here not only to show solidarity, support and respect for LGBT people in India, but also to celebrate their resilience in the face of injustice and disregard by the highest court of the land.
The central government of India itself has said that it agrees with the Delhi High Court’s decision in 2009 to decriminalize adult consensual same sex. It must now disagree with the 2013 Supreme Court decision. The political football has been kicked around long enough. Stop the use of 377 to criminalize people who are not criminals.
Published on December 16, 2013 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization