As India’s apex court prepares to a rule on the constitutionality of the country’s anti-gay law, Bollywood stars are coming out in support of repeal and more LGBT equality in the country.
Actors Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khattar are the latest in a growing number of celebrities who have publicly backed the push to repeal Section 377, reported The Times of India on Monday.
This comes as the country waits for the Supreme Court’s verdict on constitutional challenges to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises gay sex.
If the court finds the law unconstitutional, it would effectively decriminalise gay sex in India, removing a large obstacle to progress on LGBT rights.
In an interview to promote her latest film, the 21-year-old Kapoor said: “Everyone deserves the freedom to love who they want to love […] I think there’s a lot of people are still scared to support homosexuality. I mean, the community just needs love and acceptance.”
Earlier this month, the Indian Express interviewed Bollywood actors Onir, Celina Jaitly, Nandita Das and Apurva Asrani on their reasons for supporting the campaign for repeal.
Jaitly responded: “Section 377 [has] put the entire Indian LGBT community in direct line of fire. This law can be and is being used to blackmail, violate, abuse the people of the LGBT community on a daily basis.”
“Laws are meant and made to protect us, not to form a platform for fanatics to blackmail, abuse, traumatise, violate and humiliate millions of LGBTQI of this country. In India, that is what 377 is unfortunately perpetrating.”
Remnant of colonialism
Section 377 of India’s penal code was introduced in the 19th century, while India was under British colonial rule. It prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”, with harsh penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a hefty fine.
Moves to repeal the law in recent years have so far been unsuccessful. While the High Court ruled in 2009 that Section 377 violated constitutional rights, the ruling was overturned in 2013 by two members of the Supreme Court following pressure from religious groups.
Despite the possibility of arrest, LGBT activists have continued to fight to repeal the law. The stakes are high — if the Supreme Court finds the law unconstitutional, it would decriminalise gay sex in a country with a population of over 1.2 billion people, and could have an impact on other former British colonies with similar legislation.