January 29, 2023

Great Indian Mutiny

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“India is a country of repressed sexuality”

Until 2018, homosexuality was a crime in India. Saurabh Kirpal (New Delhi, 1972) led the case that overturned a law inherited from British colonialism that criminalized same-sex relationships. A lawyer of the Supreme Court and New Delhi High Court, he felt very lonely in a country that could have locked him up for life because of who he was, but in his twenties he dared to take action: “Living in the closet is never. An option. It was less than a full life”, he recalled in Barcelona, ​​where he arrived earlier in the month to collect one of this year’s Casa Asia Awards. His fight for the rights of the LGTBI community has earned him recognition from the courts, whose next goal is to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Laura Gomez Ruiz Barcelona

Supreme Court

In 2018, Kirpal led the charge to decriminalize homosexuality in the Asian country.

What is it like to live in India for the LGBTI community?

We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Although the 1861 Act was not enforced in practice, and the fear of arrest was greater than actual arrest, the result was that people with different gender identities were unable to live full lives. But that changed in 2018 when the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality. However, it is limited to crime and you cannot live a meaningful life because you are not a criminal. An individual has many more aspects: the right to adopt children, to marry, to have common insurance with your partner, to get medical care with your partner… these are rights that the LGBTI community does not have today.

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How homophobic is Indian society?

There is a general level of tolerance in society. Our historical texts for the trans community and the majority religion, Hinduism, have never advocated against same-sex relationships. The Kamasutra is very clear about this type of relationship. I don’t think there is homophobia as seen here in the West, but obviously there is mistrust: people don’t know how to treat an LGTBI person because until 2018 it was a crime.

You’re encouraging people to come out, what’s stopping them from doing so unless it’s homophobia?

I’m not saying there isn’t rejection against the gay community. There is no hatred but there is hatred, I am talking about cities, in cities it is different. There you are not allowed to be gay because there is a social sanction, in the same way you cannot marry outside a caste. To fulfill the will of the parents. Also, India is a sexually repressed country. People don’t talk about their gender. Homosexuality is an extreme example of talking about your sexuality because it sets you apart from others. Most gays in India have not come out yet.

So, no attacks against LGTBI people?

Maybe I should modify my answers. Unfortunately, most of the trans community end up in sex work due to lack of employment opportunities and are particularly vulnerable. If you’re a sex worker in India, you’re already disempowered because if you go to the police to report it, they won’t take you seriously and may abuse you, which is why there’s so much aggression against the trans community. . This is very strange because transgender people are very protected by law, but in practice they are like ‘untouchables’. [hablando en términos de castas]Extreme discrimination on the LGTBI spectrum.

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Do you have openly LGBTBI advocates in your work?

I can count them on one hand. What’s more gay but still plenty of lawyers in the closet. One unique thing we have in India: Men who admit that they have sex with other men, but do not consider themselves gay, are called MSM. It’s strange, but that’s how they define themselves.

He is the only lawyer among the last 14 proposed lawyers who was not selected for the Delhi High Court. Would you say you are discriminated against because of your sexual orientation?

No doubt. It’s quite a coincidence that only one gay person is missing. It is also a coincidence that there are no gay judges in India. Although no official reason is given, an explanation sometimes given is that my partner is of foreign origin and we are not married. It is also blatantly discriminatory because I am not allowed to marry my foreign partner as India does not recognize same-sex marriage equality. It’s not direct discrimination, because that can be very angry, it’s subtle. But for one thing I am ready to fight.

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