Statement on Supreme Court judgement of 6 September, 2018 decriminalising
consensual sexual activities deemed ‘unnatural’
Population Foundation of India (PFI) congratulates LGBTQ citizens on the Supreme Court verdict setting aside provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal code that criminalises consenting sexual activities deemed ‘unnatural’. It is a victory for LGBTQ individuals and those who have stood with them in a long and hard battle against an archaic provision of law, which infringes on individual bodily autonomy, sexual rights and identity. The judgement demonstrates the value of collective and persistent community activism, as with persons living with HIV/AIDS, who continue to collectively fight against stigmatisation worldwide to gain equal status on individual rights.
The SC verdict is heartening for PFI as a ray of hope on ensuring freedom of choice, equal rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services without prejudice or discrimination for other marginalised communities. We thank and congratulate the Honourable Justices in delivering this landmark judgement as the first step to ensuring that LGBTQ citizens are guaranteed the same constitutional rights as their fellow citizens. PFI also underlines that progressive changes to law are a necessary precondition, but not sufficient to ensure equal rights in practice. We must work on changing social norms that stigmatise or ghettoise individuals based on regressive perceptions of social acceptability and morality. We call upon all sections of society to ensure implementation of the law in its true spirit. The judgement needs to be followed through with policies that address the barriers faced by LGBTQ individuals, such as sensitising the medical fraternity, doing away with ‘conversion therapies’, seeking help on sexual and mental health services, redressal for workplace discrimination and broader legal rights.
PFI commits to including messages that shift social norms defining the space for LGBTQ individuals in all our programmes, especially related to social and behaviour change communication. We take this as the first step to a longer, and perhaps equally challenging, battle at the community level to ensure that LGBTQ citizens can fearlessly demand dignity, equality and respect.