377 Case Developments

As posted by Vikram Doctor on Movenpick mailing list.  For more information please contact Vikram Doc @ 98213-29037

This is to inform everyone  that there has been a significant development in the S.377 case in the Supreme Court today. All the final applications for interventions by parties interested in the Delhi High Court verdict came up before a bench comprising of Justices Singhvi and Ganguly. These included a few against the Delhi High Court verdict, but also for the first time, applications from civil society supporting it. These include:

1) A group of 19 parents of lgbt kids
2) A group of 16 leading academics
3) Shyam Benegal, independent filmmaker and member of the Rajya Sabha
4) A group of 13 leading mental health professionals

The bench allowed them all in, except for one weird application from Suresh Kumar Kaushal, the first guy to petition against the verdict. In his petition (which stands as part of the case) he alleged that allowing homosexuality would undermine national security because it would lead to soldiers having sex in remote outposts where there were no women!!!!!!!!!!!! Now he wanted the court to get the Indian Army involved to give its views on this assertion, but thankfully the bench threw this out.

Allowing the voices of civil society to get involved in the case is a very important development. The petitions are strong statements of support for the Delhi High Court verdict from really respected people. I will also send out the press releases so people have an idea of who all are involved. Please do inform any media contacts you have about this development.

The other big piece of news is that the bench wants to hear the case soon. It seemed at one point that the case would drift for quite a while, but now the bench has the next date for hearing as April 18th!

Its all happening really fast now, and its going to be a complete circus with 15 parties against us, the parents, academics, mental health professionals and Shyam Benegal for us, and a whole bunch of top counsel in Delhi lead by no less than Mr.Fali Nariman, who is probably the seniormost and most respected counsel in India today, who appeared in case today on behalf of the parents of lgbt kids.

Let the tamasha begin!
– Vikram Doctor


Parents fight for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children: plead that criminalizing them destroys families

February 7, 2011

In 2009 in the case of Naz Foundation v. Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, the Delhi High Court issued a landmark decision decriminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults. This decision has come under sustained attack from several parties who would seem to have no link to any homosexual person, but who still claim that this decision is harmful. Their most commonly reason is that it will attack the family values on which our country is based.

This biased and misleading response has now been countered in the Supreme Court by a group of people who very definitely do know a homosexual person their very own child. In a petition that has just been admitted in the case, a group of parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people from across the country have come together to describe the very real harm that criminalization has caused their children, and themselves.

The parents argue that the real harm to family values is caused by divisive and discriminatory laws like Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and they call on the Supreme Court to uphold the Delhi High Court’s wise decision. Their petition states: “it is Section 377 which is a threat to family values, as it directly affects the rights of the Applicants to safeguard their families from illegal and arbitrary intrusion from the state authorities. Section 377 invades the sanctity of the family, home or correspondence and allows for unlawful attacks on the honour and reputation both parents of LBGT persons as well as LGBT persons themselves.

The group of parents is lead by Mrs.Minna Saran, mother of the late Nishit Saran, a brilliant young filmmaker whose work, before he died in a tragic road accident, documented his struggles in trying to come out about his sexuality, fearing the adverse reactions of society on his family. But he received full support from his mother, who defied social prejudices, and accepted her son for who he was. She has since set up the Nishit Saran Foundation in his memory to help LGBT youth and their families come to the naturally loving acceptance that she had for her son.

Another parent is Mrs.Munithayamma, the mother of Veena.S. who identifies as a hijra. Her child was born male, but always felt inclined to dress like a girl, and, Mrs.Munithayamma testifies with sadness how fear of social stigma and her own confusion and lack of knowledge lead her to prevent her child from behaving as came naturally to her, and even to hitting her from time to time. She wishes that more parents will be supportive of their transgendered children, something unlikely to happen when they are treated as criminals by the law.

Mrs.Chitra Palekar is a film-maker and an award winning theatre actor and director. She is also the mother of Dr.Shalmalee Palekar, an academic who identifies as lesbian. Mrs.Palekar testifies to how isolating it was to be the mother of a lesbian daughter, since the criminality associated with homosexuality prevented any open discussion of the subject. She was able to understand and accept her daughter by reading books on LGBT issues and meeting LGBT people, but she knows that social stigma would prevent many others like her from having such an opportunity.

These are just three of the 19 parents who have come together to file this petition. They come from across India and all walks of life, including homemakers, academics and teachers, an employee of the Postal Department and the head of a co-operative bank. The nature and diversity of their identities disproves another charge made by opponents of decriminalisation “ that this change reflects only Western, elite sensitivities. Nothing could be more typically Indian than this group of parents, who are doing nothing more typical for a parent than defending the right of their children for a safe, unprejudiced life.

Academics Support Delhi High Court Decision in Section 377 Case
February 7, 2011

In a petition that has just been admitted by the Supreme Court leading academics and professors from across the country have come together to support the Delhi High Court’s decision in the Section 377 case, Naz Foundation v. Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults.

This initiative is in response to the attacks made against the decision by many self-proclaimed “experts”, some of who have gone as far as to file appeals against the decision in the Supreme Court. Many of these “experts” seem to assert that their views on the subject are definitive and hence must be accepted. Against this, the academics argue for the need to consider a diversity of views, coming from people with independently established expertise.

The Applicants submit that the views of “religious leaders” cannot be taken as being the final word on the issue which would bind all sections of society. The Applicants, with their extensive experience and knowledge in the fields of Sociology, International Law, Political Science and Gender Studies can make a significant contribution to the debate on the issues raised by the impugned judgement, providing insight into the evolution of society and the evolution of laws and social mores which have adapted themselves to such social changes over time, the world over.

This is not entirely an abstract academic issue. Unlike many of the opponents, who seem to have had little actual interaction with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, the academics state that they have interacted with hundreds of LGBT people in India and witnessed first hand the harassment, humiliation and prejudice they have had to face. Such harassment and humiliation has taken place within colleges and universities where both students and academic staff have faced problems ranging from ragging to suspension simply for reasons of their sexuality.

The Applicants wish to draw attention to the pain experienced by the LGBT community, within academic circles due to being subject to constant ridicule and harassment which was further perpetrated by the existence of Sec.377 of the IPC. As teachers they make the argument that Sec.377 vitiates for everybody (and not just for gay people) the general atmosphere of free expression, learning, enquiry, and dignity that an academic environment should ensure.

They oppose Sec.377 because its existence legitimizes an atmosphere that runs counter to the spirit of openness and acceptance of difference that should mark modern academic spaces. Its existence is not only an affront to those who are non-heterosexual, but it is an affront to each and every person in the academy who believes that every teacher and student has dignity that should be respected, and that learning is a continuous and life-long process, in which fixed ways of thinking are continuously challenged and reshaped by more inclusive values.

The academics who have come together for this petition include Professor Nivedita Menon, who is Professor of Political Thought at the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Professor Shohini Ghosh who is Zakir Hussain Professor of Media at the AJK Mass Communication Research Center.


Professor Nivedita Menon, School of International Studies, JNU.
Professor Shohini Ghosh, Sajjad Zaheer Chair, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia,
Ms.Shilpa Phadke, Assistant Professor, Centre for Media & Cultural, Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Dr.Aditya Nigam, Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Studies
Dr.Ranjani Mazumdar, Associate Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU
Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, School of International Studies, JNU.
Professor Anuradha M. Chenoy, School of International Studies, JNU
Ms.Ankita Pandey, Assistant Professor, Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University
Mr.Partha Pratim Shil, Assistant Professor, Hindu College, Delhi University
Professor K.P.Jayasankar, Centre for Media & Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Professor Satish Deshpande, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi,
Ms.Janaki Srinivasan, Assistant Professor, Dept. Of Political Science, Punjab University
Dr.Shoba Venkatesh Ghosh, Professor of English, University of Mumbai
Professor Mary E.John, Director, Centre for Women’s Development Studies,
Professor Anjali Monteiro, Centre for Media & Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
Dr.Janaki Abraham, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi

Shyam Benegal Opposes the Criminalization of Homosexuality
February 7, 2011

Shyam Benegal is a prolific Indian director and screenwriter. With his first four feature films Ankur (1973), Nishant (1975) Manthan (1976) and Bhumika (1977) he created a new genre which has now come to be called the “middle cinema” in India. His films, set amid the contemporary Indian experience, engage issues of social change. Mr. Benegal has sought, through cinema, to address issues of caste, gender, feudalism and development.

Mr. Benegal is a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. On 8 August 2007, he received the highest award in Indian cinema for lifetime achievement, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He has won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi seven times.

Mr. Benegal is committed to the rights of all minorities in India to be treated equally, and live with dignity. He believes that the criminalisation of any minority, including LGBT people, is unconstitutional, violates the ethos of the nation, and attacks the fabric of the Constitution of India. Hence, he has intervened in this present case to defend the Delhi High Court judgment, which read down Section 377 to decriminalise consensual sex between adults.

Mental Health Professionals oppose Criminalization of Homosexuality
February 7, 2011

This last press release is the intervention from senior mental health professionals who have come together to oppose the criminalisation of homosexuality. With so much rubbish in the opposing petitions on the psychological effects of homosexuality, it is really important to get these opinions from really respected professionals in the mental health field:

A group of reputed mental health professionals from across India have opposed the criminalization of homosexuality saying that it will result in irreparable psychological and mental harm to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons.

In 2009 in the Naz Foundation case the Delhi High Court declared that consensual sex between homosexuals would no longer be criminalized under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This verdict was attacked by several groups and individuals who asked the Supreme Court to strike it down. Thirteen mental health professionals who practice as psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and behavioural psychologists have now submitted a petition, which has been admitted by the Supreme Court, in which they argue that striking down the verdict will greatly harm LGBT persons.

This group of mental health professionals includes the reputed psychiatrist Dr Shekhar Sheshadri from the National Institute for Mental Health Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, which functions under the authority of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It also includes Dr. Alok Sarin, one of Delhi’s leading psychiatrists who heads psychiatric services at the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, and Dr. Vikram Patel who works for Sangath, a mental health organization in Goa and a leading figure in the new movement for global mental health.

The mental health professionals state that in their professional experience they have repeatedly come across instances of LGBT persons who suffer from mental health problems like depression, low sense of self esteem and suicidal tendencies due to the stigma and social isolation fostered by Sec.377 of the IPC. By conveying the message that they are criminals, Sec.377 encouraged discrimination, harassment and abuse of LGBT persons. By forcing them to hide their sexuality, this law caused mental stress and anxiety to LGBT persons.

Through their years of experience in counseling LGBT persons the mental health professionals have realized what an arbitrary and harmful piece of legislation Sec.377 was and wish to use their expertise and experience to help emphasize the importance of the Naz Foundation judgment. The mental health professionals feel that the Delhi High Court order was rooted in a concrete understanding of the mental and psychological harm that Sec.377 inflicts on LGBT persons and that it removed a major source of the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBT persons in India.

The mental health professionals were distressed to note the protests that followed the Delhi High Court order and the range of appeals filed in the Supreme Court against the High Court decision. They feel that the views held by those who have filed these appeals are based on unfounded prejudices and not scientific evidence. They hope the Court will also take into account their views which are based on both scientific knowledge and years of practical experience.

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South Indian, Sambar lover,Subramanya Bharathi fan, Rebel, Bleeding heart liberal, Writer, Dreamer, Die-hard romantic and Queer. Twitter: @shrisadasivan

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