Post submitted by Tushar Malik, HRC Global Engagement Fellow
It isn’t anger that I feel now, just regret. While my friends in India spend their first night as criminals after four years of learning how to breathe and live freely, I am here, in the United States, still unable to process the thought that I no longer have the right to freedom when I return home.
India woke up on December 11, anticipating the Indian Supreme Court’s final verdict on amending the constitution and federally decriminalizing homosexual relations. Instead the apex court committed the ghastly act of recriminalizing same-sex relations, and passed the baton to the Parliament to decide whether or not to change the law. Section 377, which criminalizes homosexual relations with up to a 10-year prison sentence (can be extended to life imprisonment) is now back, rearing its ugly, colonial head on the 50 million non-straight Indians (by conservative estimates) and brands them as criminals, worse than the second-class citizens that they had learnt to be happy with since 2009, when the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexual relations.
It was anger that motivated me to spontaneously organize a protest today outside the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. I didn’t know how many would come. I didn’t know if the embassy would pay heed. I didn’t know if I would be escorted off the grounds. But I went on and protested.
With placards, we stood outside from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., sometimes a group of us, sometimes just me, silently, asking the Indian embassy to convey the message home: We are not happy with this, and the world is watching. Curious embassy officials popped by to ask what we were protesting about. It seemed that they hadn’t really read the news this morning or were choosing to ignore it.
We were allowed to protest freely, all of us, under Gandhi’s statue right in front of the Indian Embassy. It is indeed ironic that the country that valued the freedom and dignity of its citizens today decided to criminalize a huge populace already marginalized by society. With messages of support pouring in from across the world, and great words from passers-by, the protest ensured that the Indian Government remembers that we Indians know our rights and we will fight for them, no matter where we are.
I urge governments and activists from across the world, to condemn the Indian Supreme Court’s decision. It is not only a black day for LGBTQ rights, but Human Rights, as this legal change raises the number of countries where it is criminal to be homosexual or transsexual from 76 to 77. Retrogressive policy and a spineless judiciary is leading India back into the colonial era. Sadly our minds aren’t yet free from those of our erstwhile masters.
Yesterday we stood, Indians, Americans, Russians, Kenyans, citizens of the world, to tell India that we are angry and that the world is watching. I hope India pays attention. I don’t want to be a lesser citizen in my own country.
I committed love. I didn’t commit a crime.