Shivani Dubey

These Photos Show How the Indian LGBTQ+ Community Celebrated India’s Historic Verdict

On the afternoon of September 6 2018, the Supreme Court of India, in a landmark judgement, legalised consensual sexual relations among gay adults by striking down an 1861 colonial law called Section 377, which stated that gay sex was ‘against the order of nature’ and that anyone caught practicing the same would be sentenced to upto 10 years in jail or even life imprisonment, Basically, this meant that anyone who was a part of the LGBT community was a criminal and had no fundamental rights.

But all of that changed on Thursday, when a 5 judge bench of the Supreme Court of India unanimously voted to repeal the 158 year old law, which resulted in the LGBT community all across the country to launch into massive celebrations, with millions of Indians rallying behind them in solidarity.

Announcing the verdict, Chief Justice of India Dipak Mirsa said, “No one can escape from their individuality. Look for the rainbow in every cloud. Section 377 is arbitrary. Denial of self-expression is like death. I am what I am, so take me as I am.

Here is a glimpse at how the LGBT community celebrated this verdict:

Urmi Jadhav is a transgender woman who has been out for over 20 years. She could not believe it when the verdict was announced. She was bullied for being a transgender, called names, told that she should live on the streets as she does not deserve a home. She has been through it all. But the years of struggle, discrimination and judgemental glances she had suffered through the years had finally payed off on Thursday, and she couldn’t contain her emotions as she threw her hands up in joy with confetti showering everywhere around her.

“I can’t express how happy I am today. For years I’ve seen the struggles of our community. Forced marriages, gay people being thrown out of their houses, suicides, blackmailing, bullying, all of these are very prevalent in this community just because people were not accepting who we are. I have seen it all. Now, we will finally be viewed as equal. We finally have fundamental rights today.”

All smiles after the verdict. Image credit: Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters

Chitra Palekar is a filmmaker, activist and a mother to her lesbian daughter. Her daughter came out to her years ago and she accepted her wholeheartedly. But when Chitra reached out to different individuals to educate them about the LGBT community, she saw the discrimination and alienation one associates with someone who is gay. Since then, she had made it her mission to end this social stigma and fight for daughter and for anyone else who was a part of the LGBT community. When the verdict came out, she couldn’t contain her tears.

“Parents need to start supporting their children. They should be received with nothing but unconditional love. I have seen so many instances where kids get thrown out of their homes simply for being gay. But now we have found our dignity. Our kids have found their dignity. They can love whoever they want and it is all thanks to the Supreme Court. When the parents see the Chief Justice of India say ‘I am who I am’, they will rethink their ideologies, and maybe become more accepting towards their kids.

Chitra Palekar and Sanket Sveronic hug it out as the verdict is announced. Image Courtesy: Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters

Sanket Sveronic, a 23 year old cosmetologist, who has been out for almost 6 years now, feels like he has been reborn after the verdict. He also runs a Mr. Gay World India pageant. He is a public figure for gay people and has faced a lot of homophobia in his life. In school, at work places, when he gave his first ever interview announcing he was gay, the list goes on and on. But today he finally feels validated.

“I’m on top of the world right now. Today I feel like I have got all my rights back. Today is a very huge moment for me, my mother has always supported me, but today she will be especially proud of me and can say with pride that her son is gay. We have just won one battle, we have a long road ahead. Just because this law has been decriminalised, doesn’t mean people will support us. We need to educate them and end the stigma that surrounds us.”

Chitra with a transgender woman, celebrating the verdict

Ankit Bhuptani is a 26 year old gay rights activist who has been out for over 5 years now. He and his partner Nilesh, have an imaginary daughter named Katha, which means ‘story’ in Hindi. He often writes about how one day he will be able to live with Nilesh and have a real daughter named Katha. Now after Thursday, that fantasy has inched a little closer to reality. Nilesh hasn’t come out to his family yet, but Ankit hopes that now with this verdict, he might have the strength to do so.

“I am on cloud nine. No one should be able to interfere in or decide who someone loves. Today the Supreme Court of India has decriminalized my existence. Today is a day of celebration, but the fight does not end here. We need to evaluate what the Supreme Court has ruled and take necessary actions, but today, we celebrate. Tomorrow when I wake up and see myself in a mirror, instead of a criminal, I will see myself as an equal citizen.

Image courtesy: Indian Women Blog

Members of The Humsafar Trust, which is an NGO for LGBT rights in India, conducted a Pride rally from their headquarters in Mumbai to Mumbai University. The atmosphere was filled with happiness as drummers and dhols were called in to play music for the people to dance to. Around hundred people joined the rally as the LGBT community danced and celebrated their freedom with huge rainbow flags in tow. They sang and danced and celebrated their newfound freedom. They waved their flags in vigour, shouting slogans like “I am gay and it’s okay” and “We are queer” to mark the occasion. Their energy and happiness was contagious and you couldn’t help but smile along with them as they celebrated with pride.

“I have been an openly gay man for years now. I have seen a lot of discrimination and I have fought a lot of battles. In 2013, the Supreme Court had said that since the LGBT are a minuscule minority, we don’t deserve rights. That is not true, and since then, thousands of Indians have rallied in our support. Today, with this verdict, I feel respected. I feel validated. Today I can see a rainbow in front of my eyes. Our journey has officially begun and I hope the younger generation will help us in carrying this forward.” – Vivek Anand, CEO of Humsafar Trust.

“I am very happy with this verdict, but we still have a long way to go. There is a misconception that this is about gay sex. No, this is about equality and the freedom for a person to be who they really are, to express themselves freely without any repercussions. I don’t think this verdict is enough. There is a lot of work that needs to be done still, but we’ll get there.” – Smriti, a filmmaker and activist.

“Today is a historic day. I remember in 2013, we were crying out of sadness in this very room, today, we are crying out of happiness. This fight is not over yet. Now we have to work towards ending the stigma against the LGBT community amongst the citizens of the country. Marriage equality is also a cause we need to fight for.” – Sohail Abbasi, Co-founder, The Humsafar Trust.

Image credit: Francis Mascarenhas, Reuters

A similar kind of gathering took place at Carter Road Amphitheatre in Mumbai, where people from all spectrums of the LGBT community gathered to congratulate each other on the historic verdict. There were no drums or loudspeakers there owing to the fact that it is a silence zone. Many students and activists joined the meet and greet, some even brought their pets along to celebrate. It was a quiet event, but the message behind it spoke volumes. Pride rallies were carried out in all parts of India like Delhi, Bangalore and Lucknow where people came out in full force with banners, flags and posters, painting their faces with the colours of the pride flag. It was as if a rainbow had exploded all over the country and it was one of the most beautiful and liberating sites to see.

Image credit: Twitter

“It feels amazing, like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, but at the same time, we need to start working towards equal rights, marriage rights, partner being next of kin for medical and insurance, making it illegal for house renters to not let homosexual couples live in their homes, adoption rights and so on. There is a lot to do, but right now, we should celebrate this verdict.” – 34 year old Anisha, an entrepreneur.

Image Credit: Abhishek Chinnappa, Reuters

“It feels like there are butterflies in my stomach. It feels amazing, I feel giddy. What we should do now is spread awareness and end the stigma around the LGBT community. We are more than just ‘gay sex’, we are people with fundamental rights. People need to be educated and made to realise that we are also humans just like them.” – Ameya Fadnis, 44 year old interior designer, who has been out as gay since he was 21.

Image credit: Twitter

India is the biggest democracy in the world to have legalised homosexuality, and the fourth Asian country after Taiwan, Nepal and Israel, to have done so. With the announcement of this verdict, 1/5th of the LGBT population of the world can now legally love whoever they want. The fight is far from over and India as a country has a long way to go. But this is a step in the right direction and for now, the country must celebrate.

Image credits: Reuters, Twitter and myself.