It is kind of unfortunate that in a vibrant, thriving democracy as ours, which stands on the three pillars of legislative, executive & judiciary, making important decisions and keeping harmful & divisive elements at bay is often left to the last of the three-our courts! And have they delivered over the last few years- think of all progressive judgements coming out of our courts and it makes one thing clear- judiciary is probably the only institution that has worked well for us post-independence.
And added to the impressive list of judgments is the recent ruling by the Delhi HC pronouncing the legality of gay rights, and saying in the process that article 377, which says homosexuality- even consensual sex under the same- is punishable by law. Now this law was drafted around 150 years back by the British- a lot has changed since that time! Without going into the good and bad of the changes (for that debate is a never-ending one, one best done on a rainy holiday afternoon over tea and pakoras), it is clear to everyone that times they are a changin’, and however much it might put some of us into discomfort, we need to clearly draw a line between personal and public space, something which doesn’t come easily to us Indians! Honestly, what someone does in his/her bedroom is best left to that person, without getting unduly nosy/judgmental about the same. If you ask me, that’s the main disease that plagues us- we are too judgemental as people, jumping to conclusions is almost second nature to us.
For a long time now, society has perceived those of a different sexual orientation in a particular stereotypical fashion. What has also not helped is the portrayal in our films- the most influential medium if you talk of reach and penetration. This has only reinforced the stereotypes already existing, and frankly we all have been equally guilty of the same, forgetting that its purely a personal choice to be straight or gay.
Which is why the judgement, coming as it has from a high court, is a pleasant surprise, a landmark one at that! That the court has realized that we need to be more mature as a nation that is striving for, and may even achieve, superpower status in the new century, and also one which has always stood for plurality in society, and states equality and liberty as the paramount values that our society should stand for, is a momentous occasion.
Of course, given the peculiar political compulsions that exist in our country, with smaller parties having to pander to their particular vote banks, and our religious leaders who wield considerable clout socially and politically, getting the law repealed will still take some doing. But there is no doubt about the fact that we have taken a crucial, if small, step towards showing the world what Indian society truly stands for- freedom of choice!