Gay in India, Where Progress Has Come Only With Risk

BILASPUR, India — If you had told Ayesha Kapur 10 years ago that she would help lead the fight against one of the world’s oldest laws criminalizing gay sex, she would never have believed you. For most of her life, Ms. Kapur was afraid to ever speak of her sexuality.

Growing up in New Delhi during the 1980s, Ms. Kapur knew of no gay women, no reference points from Bollywood movies that could provide the vocabulary for what she was feeling. The word “lesbian,” she said, was “like a bad word.”

Three decades later, Ms. Kapur, who describes herself as deeply private and mostly apolitical, became a member of the first group of gay petitioners to challenge the law, known as Section 377.

In stepping forward, Ms. Kapur, 43, and other petitioners admitted to the court that they were criminals under a law routinely used as a cover to harass, blackmail and sexually assault gay people.

“According to the law of the land, I can be handcuffed,” she said. “It’s a very real prospect. Nothing stops the police from coming to the homes of the petitioners.”

This summer, India’s Supreme Court is expected to consider those petitions as it reviews Section 377’s constitutionality, creating a surge of hope for lawyers and activists who have been campaigning against the law for years.

But hope is tempered by years of disappointment. Even now, it is an act of calculated risk to identify publicly as being gay in India, or to advocate for change. Read more via New York Times