On December 11, 2013, Manoj Thorat embarked on a four-hour train ride from Pune to Mumbai, India. He was going to The Humsafar Trust headquarters, a community-based organization of Indian LGBT individuals, which is the largest of its kind in the country. On this day, the LGBT community across India would hear news of a pivotal Supreme Court decision – whether Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code would be deemed constitutional or not.
The Section rules against sexual intercourse “against the order of nature,” and was mainly used to target homosexual individuals.
Thorat wanted to be in Mumbai to celebrate what he thought would be a step forward for the entire Indian LGBT community, because he was almost positive that Section 377 would be deemed unconstitutional. His friend picked him up from the train station and they took a taxi to Humsafar, where live results of the decision were being broadcasted.
But, to Thorat’s immense disappointment, the decision was different from what he had predicted – the Supreme Court pronounced homosexuality illegal in India.
“The first reaction which I had is fear,” Thorat said. “I was really scared, as I am an open gay, that [the decision] made me a criminal suddenly. I was sad thinking about my future, community’s future, and moreover India’s future.”
As time went on, though, Thorat realized that life would go on much the same, and they must keep fighting. In the days following the decision, strikes and pride events rippled throughout the major cities in India and newspapers burst with information about the movement.
Thorat was not afraid to do his own part to speak out.
After the verdict, the LGBT community filed a review petition to the government, but it was rejected. Now, Thorat said the last legal option is a curative petition, which they filed and will have an open hearing sometime this July.
Thorat said he was nervous about the results of the prime minister election this year. He decided to give the majority party BJP under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi a chance to see if they will make changes for the LGBT community.
While BJP did not mention anything about the movement or Section 377 in their manifesto running for office, Thorat said that anything will be better than the current Congress’s approach to the issue.
Throughout the 60-year period that Congress was in power, Thorat said that nothing was done about gay rights.
“It is good that they got majority,” Thorat said of the BJP. “But, I think before making any decision, the party will have to consider that the world is watching them.”
The LGBT community in India did get one victory this past April, when the Supreme Court created “third gender” status for transgenders, or hijras.
The court said that transgenders would be allowed admission to educational institutions and given employment as a member of the third gender category. Additionally, reservations would be made for the group in education and employment.
While a huge step for the LGBT community, they still have a lot to continue fighting for.
Thorat said his plan is to just wait and watch what happens next. As a gay man in Pune, he came out to his friends and the other people at his workplace, but has yet to come out to his parents.
He planned to come out to them if the Section 377 Supreme Court verdict was positive, but now hopes to reveal his secret to them in the next few months.
“We will have to be on the streets asking for our rights, creating more and more awareness, making an alliance with heterosexuals, and educating them about this,” Thorat said. “ The last news we got is that RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a big part of BJP’s decision-making team, is thinking to soften their views about homosexuality. So that’s a ray of hope.”
– Rachel Reed
Sources: Manoj S. Thorat, Times of India