India Celebrates Major Gay Rights Anniversary

One year ago, the Delhi high court revoked Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalizing homosexuality. The 105-page judgment, which overturned a 149-year-old British colonial law, was the first legal decision in India to directly provide rights to gay people.

This past Friday, India’s LGBT community celebrated the anniversary of this decision.

While the decriminalization of homosexuality is certainly something to celebrate, the ‘365 without 377’ event was not just about fun. The event also involved protests against intervention petitions in the Supreme Court that could possibly make homosexuality illegal again. And while the law currently remains in favor of LGBT people, a negative social stigma toward LGBT people remains in the country.

Activists at the event say that the decriminalization of homosexuality has resulted in more gay people being open about their sexuality and coming out. It has also resulted in LGBT becoming a part of public vocabulary, and less harassment from the police.

But while these are great advances, public education on LGBT issues still lags behind the law. But the spirit behind the ‘365 without 377’ events was to move debate on LGBT issues forward. There’s no doubt that without Section 377, the law allows more people to express themselves.

Azaad Bazaar, India’s first LGBT Pride Store, provides one outlet for expression. Founded in Februray 2009 and located in Mumbai, the store sells t-shirts, mugs, and other accessories with LGBT-friendly taglines. Another organization, Queer-INK, is an e-store of books on LGBT issues in India.

Hopefully these organizations, not to mention future anniversaries of the repeal of Section 377, will make LGBT people more comfortable coming out, and will eventually lead to acceptance of India’s LGBT population.

Photo credit: lighttripper