Section 377 was introduced in the Indian Penal Code in the year 1861. As per the act, sexual activities “against the order of nature” were deemed illegal. While the ban on consensual sex between homosexual adults was revoked by the Supreme Court of India in September 2018, certain sections of Section 377 are still in force. Know in detail about India Penal code’s section 377; who challenged the Section in court; what problem did the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community face due to section 377; recent Supreme Court ruling on the revocation of Section 377, etc.
Short and Long Essay on Section 377 of IPC
Essay on Section 377 of IPC - Who Challenged It? (250 words)
Section 377 considered homosexuality unnatural and punishable by law. It mentioned the same for sex with minors, bestiality and non-consensual sexual acts. People of the LGBT community have lived in constant stress and despair in India ever since the introduction of Section 377. Many appeals were made to revise the part that criminalized homosexuality. Several cases were registered and fought in the court of law.
Here is a look at the key petitioners who challenged this Section of the Indian Penal Code and demanded the legalization of homosexuality.
- AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan
In the year 1994, AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan filed a petition to repeal Section 377 partially. This was the first petition filed in this regard.
- Naz Foundation (India) Trust
A non-governmental organization, Naz Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2001 in the Delhi High Court. It appealed to allow consensual intercourse between homosexual adults. However, the court refused to consider it. Naz Foundation then approached the Supreme Court of India. The case was sent back to the Delhi High Court for reconsideration.
- Navtej Singh Johar
Navtej Singh Johar is a well known Bharatnatyam choreographer. He filed a petition against Section 377 along with his partner Sunil Mehra. He claimed that this Section violated the right to personal liberty which is against the Indian Constitution. Sunil Mehra echoed the same thoughts. He said that people in India must be given the freedom to express their identity.
- Ritu Dalmia
Owner of the restaurant chain, Diva in Delhi, Ritu Dalmia also filed a petition against Section 377. Being a lesbian, she decided to fight for the basic rights of the people belonging to the LGBT community.
- Aman Nath
Aman Nath, the famous architectural restorer, who owns the Neemrana chain of hotels, also raised voice against the unjust law against the LGBT community. He was in a relationship with his business partner, Francis Wacziarg for more than two decades.
- Ayesha Kapur
Former child star currently doing a great business in the food and beverage industry, Ayesha Kapur also fought for gay rights to help the LGBT community attain its rightful place in society.
The Supreme Court’s historic judgment that decriminalized homosexuality was welcomed gleefully by all these petitioners as well as the other members of the LGBT community.
Essay on Section 377 of IPC - Problems Faced by LGBT (400 words)
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code stated that unnatural sexual acts that included sex between homosexuals, sex with minors, bestiality and non-consensual sexual acts were illegal and thus punishable under the law. While those indulging in sex with minors, bestiality and non-consensual sexual acts should certainly be punished however, many claimed that criminalization of consensual sex between homosexual adults isn’t corrected. Appeals were made against revising Section 377. The Supreme Court of India finally decided to decriminalize homosexuality. The decision was taken on 6th September 2018.
Impacts on Mental Health
Psychologists and doctors agreed that the enforcement of Section 377 took a toll on the mental health of those belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. They faced social stigma and could not express themselves freely. They lived in constant fear of being judged and discriminated against. Due to this, many of them committed suicide while others faced mental torture. Here is a look at the mental health issues faced by the members of the LGBT community before the revision of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution:
Many members of this community were unable to bear the constant humiliation and disrespect caused by the so-called “normal” section of the society. Several others suppressed their feelings for the fear of being termed an outcast. This often led to social isolation and a lot of stress which resulted in depression among these people.
- Adjustment Issues
The relatives, colleagues and neighborhood people considered them lesser of a being. These people found it difficult to adjust in an environment where they were constantly judged and looked down upon.
- Relationship Issues
Many lesbians and gays in our society were forced to marry people of the opposite sex. They did so just to protect their family’s honor and take its legacy ahead even though it proved to be complete torture for them. This decision particularly impacted their mind and proved to be as bad for their partners as well. They often developed irrevocable relationship issues.
The people belonging to the LGBT community have faced a lot of mental torture. Decriminalization of homosexuality has come as a respite for the members of this community as their fear of being caught has subsided to an extent. However, even as the Supreme Court of India has accepted that it is quite normal and natural for them to feel the way they feel and they have complete right to choose their partner, society’s attitude towards them hasn’t changed much. They are trying to make a place for themselves in a society where many people still ridicule them.
Essay on Section 377 of IPC: Revocation of a Part (500 words)
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized homosexuality even though people who experienced sexual orientation towards the same sex said it was natural for them to feel so and that they could not feel any other way. Homosexuals have lived in constant stress in our society due to the enforcement of Section 377. Transgender has also faced humiliation. They have been denied jobs and education in the country.
The appeal was made in the Supreme Court of India to decriminalize homosexuality so that this section of the society can also live peacefully and respectfully. It was finally heard and acted upon in September 2018.
Appeal to Legalize Homosexuality
It was in the year 2009 that the Delhi High Court struck down parts of Section 377 pertaining to gay sex. However, the Supreme Court of India overturned this judgment in December 2013 in the Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation case.
As per the Supreme Court, making amendments in the Section was not their task. The consent for the same should be taken in the Parliament. The petition submitted by the Naz Foundation was reviewed by a three-member bench on 6 February 2016. It was decided that this and other petitions submitted in this regard shall further be reviewed by a five-member constitutional bench. The five-member bench formed for the same consisted of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and his team of justices. This included Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and DY Chandrachud.
The Supreme Court Verdict, September 2018
The right to privacy was upheld as a fundamental right in August 2017 by the Supreme Court. The court stated that the protection of sexual orientation is the fundamental right of the citizens and LGBT (Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender) community has a complete right to use it. The claims to decriminalize homosexuality were deemed real. It was said that they were founded on the constitutional doctrine itself.
On 6th September 2018, the Supreme Court of India announced that the part of Section 377 that sees consensual sex between homosexual adults as a criminal offense was unjust and unconstitutional. The same was decriminalized. This was a landmark judgment. The news came as a breath of fresh air for the LGBT community. It was a declaration to stop discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and build a better society for them.
The members of the LGBT community were overjoyed to hear the news. There were celebrations all over the country. Many members of this community came forward to express their happiness over this decision.
Part of Section 377 Remains in Force
The part of Section 377 that saw sex with minors, bestiality and non-consensual sexual acts as criminal offenses still remain in force. All these acts are certainly criminal in nature and are rightly still punishable under the law. Any person who indulges in the same would face severe punishment that includes serving imprisonment and a heavy fine.
This part of Section 377 is essential to safeguard society against forced and unnatural sexual activities.
The Supreme Court of India’s decision to revoke the part of Section 377 that criminalized homosexuality was welcomed with joy and happiness by a wide section of the society.
Long Essay on Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (600 words)
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dates back almost a century and a half. The British considered a carnal relationship between people of the same sex as an unnatural act that was against the will of God. This was punishable by law in their country. They introduced Section 377 to establish a similar law in India too. Section 377 also considered bestiality, sex with minors and non-consensual sexual acts to be criminal offenses and mentioned that these were punishable by law.
Part of Section 377 Unjust and Inhuman
Finally, a five-judge bench was formed. It dealt with numerous petitions that claimed that Section 377 violated the basic rights of the LGBT community such as the right to privacy and the right to lead a dignified life. It was then unanimously agreed that this community deserves its due respect and dignity.
Section 377 was revised and homosexuality was decriminalized. The Supreme Court stated that consensual adult gay sex would no longer be considered a crime. Backing its decision, the court stated that sexual orientation is a natural phenomenon and that people do not have any control over the same. This news came as a respite for people belonging to the LGBT community.
Reactions on the Supreme Court’s Verdict on Section 377
The Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377 decriminalized homosexuality. The decision was largely appreciated and welcomed with joy particularly by the members of the LGBT community. However, certain sections of the society ridiculed it too. Here is a look at the different kinds of reactions received on the verdict:
CPI (M) appreciated the judgment of the Supreme Court. Party leader, Sitaram Yechury expressed his approval on the same. He said that the LGBT community has undergone enough humiliation and deserved this change.
Congress Leaders, Rahul Gandhi, Shashi Tharoor, and Sachin Pilot also appreciated the Supreme Court verdict.
BJP spokesperson, Shaina NC said that the party supports the Supreme Court’s decision.
Many celebrities from the Indian film fraternity including the likes of Karan Johar, Aamir Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Rajkumar Rao, Sonam Kapoor, and Swara Bhasker took to social media to welcome the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) said that it also believed that homosexuality is not a crime and that the Supreme Court did the right thing. However, the party members also mentioned that they do not overtly support homosexuality as it is against the Hindu tradition and culture.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), on the other hand, stated that legalizing homosexuality is wrong as per the Indian values. It said that women would face a major problem after this verdict and that the court must pass a bill to protect their rights.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare opposed the Supreme Court’s decision. It mentioned that this would cause a big hindrance in their fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) shared the same opinion. It expressed its disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision via a press statement. The members of this group believe that this will cause moral degradation. As per them, this will destroy the family system and prove to be a hindrance to the progress of the human race. JIH further said that it will take all measures to resist this shameful descend which is against Indian culture.
People of the LGBT community across the country were thrilled at the historic judgment passed by the Supreme Court. They danced and expressed their joy wholeheartedly. They saw a ray of hope. It meant that they could live life on their own terms and not fear being caught and punished for being who they are. Partial revocation of Section 377 of IPC was a victory for the LGBT community, its supporters and activists.