India and the Global Fight for LGBT Rights

Frank Mugisha
 is the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. @frankmugisha

In September 2018, LGBT people in India celebrated after the country’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down a colonial-era ban on gay sex. It was an important moment for LGBT rights that not only reversed a relic of British oppression but also ordered that LGBT Indians be accorded all the protections of their constitution. This was a welcome victory, but it does not necessarily mean that LGBT people in India are fully free or perceived as equal among their fellow citizens—and it underscores how much work remains to be done in the rest of the world to overturn antiquated and repressive anti-gay laws.

Let’s be clear: Criminalizing same-sex relations makes it illegal to be LGBT.

 My country, Uganda, still has laws on the books similar to those that were struck down in India—and LGBT people in Uganda continue to face persecution and discrimination. Criminal laws hang over our community like a dark cloud. Individuals live in fear of harassment and prosecution for being who they are. As the Indian Supreme Court explicitly acknowledged, the criminalization of same-sex intimacy brings with it shame and rejection. LGBT people effectively become unapprehended felons and pariahs.

The most remarkable part of the Indian court’s decision is that it didn’t just use a universal standard of human rights to decriminalize homosexuality; it also acknowledged the responsibility of the state to help end the stigma attached to being LGBT. The court could have gone even further and emphasized that the Indian government should put in place mechanisms that would allow the reconciliation of shunned LGBT children and their parents. Doing so would help end the practice of parents forcing arranged marriages on those children—something that can lead to trauma and other mental health problems. It would also help end the shocking practice of “corrective rape,” in which families subject their LGBT children to nonconsensual sex. Read more via Foreign Policy