A Year After Section 377: What’s Next For India’s LGBTQIA+ Community
I remember the day the Section 377 verdict came. It was a day before my birthday. And I wasn’t so sure this one’s going to stick around…I mean, they wanted to do this before too, and then it went back to being criminalised again. I didn’t want to believe it for a bit. I wanted to know if it’s for real.
From then, to now, 2019 became the year when my film, Sisak (a gay love story is the premise of the short film). found a platform. I’ve seen people come out to their families after watching Sisak, I have handwritten letters from people around the world. An 18-yearold came to watch my film on his birthday, and then went back and came out to his parents. His parents then invited me for dinner. That’s the award I wanted.
When I made Sisak, Section 377 was still a criminal offence, and that was the reason I made the film. I wanted to put out a single thought: You can have any law in the world, but how can you change what’s inside two people’s heart? That feeling is intangible. This year has been about changing lives. And it cannot be done if we label a film. A film doesn’t have a gender. My film is about love and acceptance. The reason a film like Sisak is still relevant and will be relevant in the years to come is that we change laws, but the fight has never really been about the law. The fight is about how we take this kind of love to be wrong. How can love of any kind be wrong?
Personally, for me, the decriminalisation hasn’t changed much. Because here we talk about privilege. I have a privilege, I have a family that allows me to be who I want to be. A lot of people don’t have that privilege. We need to understand that Section 377, while it was alive, affected people who didn’t have that privilege. They were exposed all the time. We’ve all faced violence, discrimination because of our sexuality at some point. There’s a larger fight at play. When people rejoice about the decriminalisation, I tell them it’s not the time to celebrate. Now is actually the time to hold harder, to take our stand, to find our place in the sun and stand up for who we are and what we believe in. We cannot be invisible anymore. We have to come out of our closets, we have to let people know that we are your sons and your daughters. We are you, we are your family. This is a cultural, social and political conversation we need to take forward.
About the change that the community has gone through, there has been change. Like a lot of corporations are trying to make the community feel included. Now, conversations have started. The removal of Section 377 is a baby step. We have to look at antidiscriminatory laws for the community, equal rights and representation, the right to marry, adoption – there’s so much to achieve. Our lifetimes are going to be short for all of it. I know people who have died fighting for this cause. When people deny rights, they have blood on their hands, they should know that.
I don’t want to make a blanket statement by saying that the removal of the section has made it easier to come out. The battle we’re fighting is much bigger, and it’s going to take a lot of time for it to percolate into the little corners of the world. Even in urban cities, maybe it has made it a little better for people from privileged, affluent families, but society’s acceptance hasn’t entirely creeped in. If we are talking about ways to move the conversation forward, we need to have more conversations openly. We need to not look at the community as freaks of nature, not use the community for comic relief in cinema, which is continuing to happen even after the removal of Section 377. A major step would be representation. Let a transperson play a trans-person in a film or a play.
We need to listen to each other so that the world becomes a better place and people feel safe to come out, and be who they are. We need a platform to be ourselves. We have to create a safe space and unless we do that, nothing can change. The answers to achieve these have been given by people all over the world a million times; we just have to learn to listen. Are we listening? Are you ready to listen now?