India: Law says I’m a criminal, that’s unacceptable

Ritu Dalmia is an Indian celebrity chef and restaurateur. She now owns & manages a family of six unique restaurants in Delhi, as well as a thriving catering business. She is the host of two immensely popular cookery shows on national television – Italian Khana and Travelling Diva on NDTV Good Times, in addition to authoring three cookbooks - Italian Khana, Travelling Diva – Recipes from around the world, and Diva Green. (DIVA Restaurants)

In Part 1 of Hindustan Times series, Let’s Talk About 377, restaurateur Ritu Dalmia asks the Supreme Court to decriminalise the archaic law, arguing that it impinges on dignity and privacy.


According to the Indian Penal Code, people like me are guilty of “unnatural offences”. The law book, left behind by the British, tries to govern our lives through Section 377 and can imprison us for a term of life for “carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”.

I am many things but I am not a criminal, and a coward I am not. I am a celebrated chef with seven restaurants around the world. I want to be known as a chef; not as a lesbian chef.

I have never been in the closet but I don’t feel the need to wear a T-shirt announcing my sexuality. My family and friends, who matter, know me for what I am. After a four-year stint in London, I returned to Delhi and decided to speak to my parents. My mother just went silent. Two days later, she sent a box of mangoes to my partner.

I am not an activist and have no desire to be one but I have now signed a petition seeking a review of a colonial-era law that criminalises consensual same-sex-relations between adults. I now believe none of us has the right to expect a change without doing our bit to bring about that change. A few years ago, I joined the gay pride in Delhi.

I have never been ashamed of my orientation, but now can’t bear the ways in which members from my community are discriminated against. The freedom to love is not just about sexuality, but how do you begin to explain that? We become vulnerable to blackmail and extortion by the police and even by domestic helps or drivers. The horrific section called 377 is used as a tool to scare and intimidate. What I do within my home should be my business. I am a worthy, tax-paying citizen like the rest of you. Read more via Hindustan Times