The two advocates who worked on decriminalising homosexuality in India, admitted that they were indeed a couple. Section 377 Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju admitted the landmark victory was not just a professional benchmark but also a personal win. In a detailed interview with Fareed Zakaria, on CNN the lawyer duo spoke about their careers and challenges.
Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, both of whom were among the counsels fighting to decriminalize homosexuality, made history when Supreme Court struck down Section 377 on September last year.
Not Nice to Be A ‘Criminal’
“We had a court where we practiced as lawyers … and this court had just told us that gay people were second class citizens,”said Katju to journalist Fareed Zakaria.
“It is not nice to be a ‘criminal’ who has to go back to court as a lawyer to argue other cases,” said Guruswamy in the CNN interview. She also spoke about the regressive 2013 Supreme Court judgment when it refused to change the law against homosexuality and upheld criminalization of the LGBTQ community. She said that in 2013 when the senior judge asked the law officer during a court hearing if he knew any homosexuals to which the law officer laughed and said, ‘no my lord, I am not that modern’ “and for all of us it was very clear at that point that we were going to lose because the judge had no imagination of who is a gay Indian.”
2018 A Turning Point
Things changed in 2018. Indian courts issued a historic judgement decriminalising sexual relations between consenting adults.Guruswamy and Katju got international acclaim and the two were featured in the Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.
Katju said that the best thing that happened after the verdict was that they could all celebrate together including her parents, who had come down to court to watch her and Guruswamy in action.
Bigger Changes ahead?
In a previous interview with SheThePeople.TV, Rhodes Scholar Guruswamy spoke about what this judgment meant to her. How do you think the judgment has paved the way for bigger changes to come? “Clearly, it speaks to a bright future. It’s a historic, memorable judgment but we need to reflect and celebrate the judgment and be thoughtful about the future. You have a firm constitutional base to build on,” she says. “As a country, we are a work in progress.”
Guruswamy added, “This judgment makes the idea of constitutional morality applicable to all of India, whether one is from the LGBTQ community or not. That it won’t be majoritarian morality, it will not be popular morality, societal morality that will have an impact on your life. So what are those scenarios – what you eat, what you wear, your faith or any manifestation of that faith, the ability to dissent and ability to not to dissent, this is all encompassed.”
She also talked about the time she first started working on the matter in 2010-11 and was core to the team that pushed for decriminalizing homosexuality in the country. “When I first started working on this case, when the wonderful judgment by the Delhi HC was appealed against and the matter was in the Supreme Court…In the aftermath of the loss in 2013, we filed reviews and I think we decided very quickly that we would have to find a way to change our approach.”
The couple said to CNN that they now hope that the amendment in law in our country will be used as an example for change in other countries as well. “Malaysians and Sri Lankans are now looking at how they can use this judgement to overturn anti-gay laws in their countries,” added Katju.
It was on September 6, 2018 when the Constitution bench, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Indu Malhotra supported the rights of LGBTQ community in the country and read down the law.
Picture credit- Time Magazine for Feature Image