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For Gay Indians, Landmark Ruling Is Just the Beginning

For Gay Indians, Landmark Ruling Is Just the Beginning


After the judges relayed their decision, the news rocketed around India, with people kissing, crying, drinking and shooting off blasts of confetti. Many were exhausted on Friday — but still celebrating.

Chayanika Shah, 60, a member of a collective she described as “women loving women,” read parts of the judgment aloud at a bar in Mumbai. Shankar Yadav, 20, and his friends shared a pineapple cake in the central city of Raipur and then “danced in the streets to our heart’s content.”

“India got independence decades ago,” Mr. Yadav said. “We got independence yesterday!”

One thing is certain: The ruling has invigorated the growing coalition of gay rights groups in India. The biggest organizations are confined to large cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. In rural parts of the country, activists work remotely, in sometimes hostile conditions and without the protection of a parent organization.

But public perception is changing, and so is the profile of gay groups. Pride parades, once small affairs in urban centers where many people showed up wearing masks to shield their identities, now attract thousands dancing openly in the streets. More recently, parades have sprung up in smaller state capitals like Bhubaneswar and Bhopal.

The effort to strike down Section 377 has been underway for years. It picked up steam in 2000, when a terrified young man went to the Naz Foundation, one of the few H.I.V. advocacy organizations in India, pleading for help because his parents had forced him to undergo electroshock therapy at a government hospital to make him straight.

Anjali Gopalan, who runs the organization in New Delhi, was so horrified at what the young man told her that she filed a lawsuit challenging Section 377, setting the historic case in motion. She has received death threats for years as a result.

One of the most unequivocal public statements on the ruling was the front page on Friday of The Indian Express, perhaps the country’s most respected English-language newspaper.



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