News & Politics

Where is the Outrage Over India?

Love is, once again, a criminal activity in India. On Tuesday, India’s highest court restored an insane colonial-era law banning consensual sex between members of the same gender and making it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In its ruling, the Supreme Court Justices tossed out a lower court decision that overturned the archaic law in 2009, heralded at the time as the “Indian Stonewall,” and said only Parliament has the power to change this particular law.

Today, the news out of New Delhi offered some hope. So vocal was the outrage over the high court’s decision—not only from gay rights’ groups, but politicians, ministers and the media—that the usually slow-moving Parliament is actually considering a quick ordinance to neutralize the ruling. Until they follow through with that, everyday life will be dangerous activity for LGBT couples and families.

There hasn’t been nearly as much outrage over the decision as one would expect from folks here in the States. A few newspaper editorials, a handful of tweets, and one bizarre message from Mia Farrow:

Mia Farrow

When that tweet was met with confused congratulations and frantic Google searches, Mia quickly clarified in another, equally bizarre tweet:

Mia2

That could be a while since Mia is not gay. But I digress.

The point is, where is our collective outrage? Americans may not all agree on same-sex marriage, but we mostly believe in the freedom to express ourselves sexually in the privacy of our own home, don’t we? Shouldn’t we be decrying this ruling in every forum possible?

Hmm. Maybe that would just be hypocritical of us, considering that it’s still officially illegal to have same-gender sex in 13 states in our freedom-loving union.

Yes, that’s right. In Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana,  North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, you can still be arrested for having consensual sex with a member of your gender—10 years after the Supreme Court ruled, in Lawrence v. Texas, that such laws were unconstitutional.

Just having those legal relics on the books would be enough of an ongoing insult to LGBT citizens, even if they weren’t enforced. But they are. Just this past summer, a 65-year-old gay man was arrested in a police sting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, booked on one count of “attempted crime against nature,” referring to the outdated anti-sodomy law. He is one of at least a dozen men who have been arrested since 2011 on similar charges, based on a law that is, itself, illegal. And those are just the arrests. These same laws are routinely used to intimidate, harass, blackmail and otherwise bully LGBT people, and they tell gay youth that they are not safe, and certainly not equal.

The situation is, of course, worse in India, where the anti-gay law is not only on the books, but active. But the real ray of hope there is not that Parliament is considering an ordinance to rectify the court’s decision, but that, the next morning, a heterogeneous community of hundreds, both LGBT and straight, poured into the street to protest the ruling and demand justice. They have been voicing their outrage on blogs, on Twitter and Facebook. Over the past 48 hours, the “Gay for a Day” Facebook campaign has gone viral, with thousands of Indians, gay and straight, posting same-sex smooches on their pages in protest.

It’s this collective barrage that has prompted members of Parliament to announce they are considering swift action to counter the damage. We need to stand with our brothers and sisters in India. We need to protest loudly with them and help get this horrid law repealed.

And then we need to start raising our voices to get our own legal affairs in order. The only thing more appalling than having laws on the books that rob a minority group of basic civil liberties and criminalize their behavior in 13 states is the fact that nobody really seems to care. Speaking up and protesting the existence of these archaic laws will tell at-risk LGBTQ youth in those states that they matter, that we care and that they are perfect just as they are.

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