"I Will Sleep Better Tonight Knowing That I Will Wake Up To A Life Of Freedom In Love"

Karan Johar and other Indians share their thoughts on Section 377 being scrapped.

Coming from a small town in India, my own awareness about LGBTQ rights and the constitutional validity of Section 377 remained very limited. That changed when I went for higher studies in Delhi and found out that my roommate identified as a lesbian. She too came from a very small town in Southern India – a town where sex was taboo, and homosexuality was an outright sin. I saw her struggle every day – struggle with her appearance, with her expression of love, with being bullied and name called, and with her own identity – an identity that was left up to law and society to assert.

Throughout the two years that I lived with her, she opened up to me about the girl she so dearly loved but wasn’t able to confess to, about how her family would get her married off to a boy if they ever found out, about being able to assert her right to choice and right to privacy without fearing the law.

It is through her that I realized how I had taken my own freedom and rights for granted in a democratic country where so many people were not even able to express their own individuality. This thought resonated with me even more when I finally moved to Mumbai. At my first ever pride parade as an ally, I spoke to so many people who just wanted to be who they are and love whom they want.  They wanted Section 377 to quit India.

It’s been 6 months since the pride parade, and love has finally won today. September 6, 2018 marks an important date in Indian history. A date that is crucial to Indian pride and individuality. In a landmark judgement delivered by the Supreme Court at 11:38 am today, homosexuality is no longer a crime. The verdict was declared by CJI Dipak Misra who, reading out his judgment said, “No one can escape from their individualism. Society is now better for individualism.”

This decision comes almost a month and a half later after a three-bench judge decided to re-examine the constitutional validity of Section 377 that criminalizes homosexuality. This happened post the ‘Right to Privacy’ Act judgement that was passed in August 2017, bringing hope to me as well as thousands of LGBTQI Indians who were in the constant fear of being convicted.

We have to thank the 12 people who filed a petition questioning Section 377, including cultural expert Aman Nath, hotelier Keshav Suri and others for putting up a long, exhausting and relentless fight in the court and finally winning it.

However, like my roommate said, even though legalities may change, it may take our society a long time to break out of their cultural shackles and truly accept people for who they are.  The battle has just begun. Nevertheless, with the law on our side, LGBTQ Indians finally have a newfound freedom. A freedom that finally lets them be who they are and love whom they want, a freedom that was long overdue.

In this spirit, we spoke to six Indians who shared their excitement with us, while outlining how life will change for them. Here’s what they had to say.

Karan Johar, Filmmaker
“Today is a day of empowerment and equality – a day of humanity and finally a day of redemption. More power to all the voices and activists who fought tirelessly for this day. This is their victory more than anyone else’s. I will sleep better tonight knowing that I will wake up to a life of freedom in love.”

Sushant Divgikar, Performer
“I would like to say that finally ‘Achhe Din Aa-gay’. But the real fight begins now, the fight with the mindset of people. They have long been conditioned to believe that homosexuality is immoral. Thus, we now need to work on social acceptance.  However, I would like to point out that this judgement should not be treated as a ticket to PDA. We have been given this right as equal citizens of the country and that is how we need to exercise it. But I am extremely happy, now that the law is on our side. It will make ‘coming out’ for so many people, so much easier.“

Related: Why Being LGBTQ Is An Ongoing Struggle

Justine Rae Mellocastro, Stylist
“The positive verdict is now going to force people to open up their minds about love. That is growth and that is how we grow together as a country. Our goal should be to spread kindness and love to everyone no matter what kind of person they are today so that they can pass it on and it’s a ripple effect.”

Related: Coming Out: Justine’s Story

Ashish Chopra, HR professional
“As they say, better late than never, I am very happy with the decision. Me and millions of Indians along with me will breathe freedom in the air now and this is a great beginning. We need to start fighting for zero discrimination and equal rights now.  This is definitely not the end but the beginning of a new battle. We need to start the fight for marriage rights, zero discrimination policies and a lot more now.”

Ankita Mehra, Community Manager
“I have always been open about my sexual orientation. My father reminded me today about the verdict. It is a festival for me, my family and my girlfriend’s family. Thanks, Supreme Court, for giving us what we deserve. Now I can say I am truly independent. I am optimistic and proud to be who I am.”

Related: My Walk At The Queer Pride Parade In Guwahati

Arjun Raj, Writer
“I came out to my parents just a month ago and while their reaction was more than ideal – they were supportive and unconditionally loving, one of the things they wanted for me was to have a better life, which, they believed- and I did too – would only be outside this country. But this win today proves that there is hope. I’m super grateful to the amazing humans who keep fighting for us and made this win a win. A part of me never wanted to leave this country. I don’t think anyone really wants to leave their homeland - they are just forced to. Their sexuality should never be a reason for that.”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com.

By Devyani Kapoor
Cover photo credit : Instagram.com/karanjohar