Friday, 12 February 2010

Legal V-Day

It’s no more hush hush... Homosexuals in India are readying to celebrate their first official Valentines’ Day with a bang since Delhi High Court decriminalised same-sex relations between consenting adults on July 2.

The celebration of 2010 Valentine’s Day is significant for the LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) community as for the first time they are out and open about it without having the fear of getting harassed by cops or people.

The V-day symbolises their freedom to assert their sexuality without being tagged as “criminals”.

Businessman Manish Sharma, 32, is excited about this weekend. He’s bought a special card for his boyfriend who he has been dating for the past six months.

“It’s our first Valentine’s Day since we started going around. This is also the first Valentine’s after same-sex relationship was made legitimate by the Delhi High Court. It’s special and we can now celebrate it without any fear,” says Sharma with a confident smile.

Sharma runs a guest house in Old Delhi and organises events like Gays Nights every Saturday at Polka restaurant-bar in Kailash colony.

Polka is jam-packed with over 200 gays every Saturday. But this weekend Sharma is expecting a much bigger crowd as it’s the V-Day eve.

“I’m expecting lot many people to turn up tonight. We will have cocktails and a video jockey who will display gay pride parades from all over the world. It’s a proper celebration. We will play House and Bollywood music,” said an upbeat Sharma.

Gay activist Mohnish Kabir Malhotra is still single but he has arranged a special party for the day. “I don’t have any partner but I’m hosting a theme party for my friends and everyone has to dress up in red and blue,” says Malhotra.

Historian and author Salim Kidwai, 58, doesn’t have any special V-day plans. “For me it’s just any other day. But it’s definitely important for those who believe in the Valentine’s Day. The court judgment has reinforced the confidence among the community members. Things are looking better. The fact homosexuals are not criminal anymore will improve their visibility,” said Kidwai.

The High Court verdict is still being challenged and the true sense of relief would come once it’s validated by the Supreme Court of India, adds he.

However, there has been a change in the outlook towards homosexuality in the past seven months since the high court decriminalised consensual same-sex acts.

“You can see the change in the manner that special cards for homosexuals are available at Archies. Hotels are allowing them to come in for New Year’s party. Moreover a lot of events and parties are being organised for the community,” says Malhotra.

Since the judgment there has been a growing sense of tolerance towards same sex lovers, if not acceptance, feels Malhotra.

“Certainly stares have gone down. Now, no one can harm gays. As long as you don’t harm, it’s ok even if you hate them,” says he.
The judgment was a big victory for the gay rights activists who had been lobbying and fighting for it for years.

It said criminalising homosexual acts was a ‘violation of fundamental rights’.
The verdict has given courage and legal protection to the LGBT community members to express their sexual orientations, which otherwise was difficult in a conservative society.

It was tremendous social pressure that led Sharma and her partner to split a few years ago.

“I was going steady with my boyfriend for 11 months. We wanted to be together. I wanted him to tell his family about our relationship. Once he got caught with one of my text messages. His family threatened to kill me. He was locked up, given bogus treatment and medicines in the hope of changing him into a straight man. He broke off with me. I was shattered. I was confused and there was no one to talk about it, no support from anywhere and no law to protect us if we went public,” recalls Sharma.

Gay rights activists and media have created awareness. Now younger generation is more aware about their sexual preferences, which was not a case earlier, says Kidwai.

“When I was in my 20s I didn’t know the word ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’. There were no role models, no help, no one to talk to,” recalls Kidwai.
The best thing that has happened now that people are talking about it, families are becoming aware of it. They don’t think it is a disease anymore says Sharma.

“I know a married man who was sexually active with other men. He opened up only when it was decriminalised. But in the mean time he ruined the life of his wife whom he married owing to family pressure,” says he.

But still it’s only a small per cent of the community which is coming out and talking. A large section of the community is still secretive about their sexuality.

“We still need to go a long way. The community has been living in hiding that distorts perspective about them and their own self esteem and undoing it and rebuilding their confidence and psyche will take a long time,” asserts Kidwai.

It would need a law to protect the rights of the LGBT community, feels Kidwai. “Just the decriminalistaion would not be enough. It will need the validation of the Supreme Court,” says Kidwai.

The community members say legalisation of homosexuality will give them security and entitle them with house and property rights.

“Everyone in the LGBT community is insecure. I still expect the government to come up with a law to approve marriages. It would give them a sense of security. A person would think many times before breaking up. And hopefully, a gay couple would be able to adopt a child,” hopes Sharma.

But for the time being all they want is to paint the town in red and celebrate their first ‘Legal Valentine’s Day’.

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