Today the Supreme Court in India ruled that the 19th Century law, Section 377, that has been used for over 100 years to prosecute and imprison people convicted same-sex sexual activity, is in fact lawful. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was struck down in the Delhi High Court in 2009 as being unconstitutional, thereby seeing the historical legalization of same-sex activity for the tens of millions of Indians who identify as LGBTI. Today its overturn will potentially see them driven back into the closet to a life of discrimination. This is in no doubt a tragic moment for LGBTI rights, and therefore a tragic moment for the human rights for ALL people. It also threatens to destabilize AIDS diagnosis and treatment programmes across India, as criminalization breeds reluctance in sufferers to come forward and use sexual health services. I suggest that we boycott all products and services made in India until Section 377 is finally and unequivocally struck down.
More worryingly, could we be seeing the start of a trend of re-criminalization of homosexuals across the world? The crackdown of Putin’s government on LGBT activity in the Russian Federation and now this backward step in India are frightening reminders that hard-won rights can be taken away. Over 70 countries across the globe criminalize homosexuality, and in a handful of those, homosexuality is punishable by death. Calls in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Uganda but also in Botswana and Namibia for the beating and murder of gays are clear evidence more work is needed to safeguard the rights and dignity of LGBTI people.
This is not just my issue as a gay person, this is your issue too. Human rights protect YOUR freedoms and they protect the freedoms of your children, your families, your friends too. But it is the minority I belong to that is being penalized here and I ask you for your support on behalf of the millions of LGBTI people who face persecution and legal discrimination on a daily basis. Today it’s us, but tomorrow or in 20 years time it could be someone else – disabled people, perhaps. Or the overweight? Maybe the Jews again, or blacks, or the mentally ill, or unmarried women, or Muslims, or artists, or people who are pro-choice, or people who are anti-abortion, or maybe people who are educated in critical thinking?
Let’s join together and fight intolerance as strongly as we can. Share this post, or any other post on any site that talks about defending human rights and protecting human dignity. Share every single one you find! The more we say we will not stand for intolerance the stronger and harder we attack it. And let’s do it in the spirit of love, compassion and fellowship, otherwise why bother?