Lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, who argued against the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in the Supreme Court, said on Thursday that as a couple, the court’s verdict in their favour last year was not just a professional benchmark but also a personal win. The two advocates had represented the petitioners seeking to decriminalise homosexual activity between consenting adults in India.
In an interview with CNN, Guruswamy said: “It is not nice to be a ‘criminal’ who has to go back to court as a lawyer to argue other cases.”
Guruswamy and Katju had also argued the case in 2013 when the Supreme Court upheld the Section 377 after it was decriminalised in 2009 by Delhi High Court. However, on September 6, 2018, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court reversed its 2013 order and decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults. The Section 377 provided for jail up to 10 years for the offence.
The couple said they hoped that the verdict in India will act as a beacon for other countries that still have anti-gay laws. “Malaysians and Sri Lankans are now looking at how they can use this judgement to overturn anti-gay laws in their countries,” said Katju.
Soon after the CNN interview was posted on Twitter, Katju shared a photo of her with Guruswamy in court.
The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court gave the verdict after hearing a batch of six petitions and interventions filed by non-governmental organisation Naz Foundation, parents of queer people and Voices Against 377, a collective of human rights groups.
Guruswamy and Katju got international acclaim after the historic judgement in 2018. They featured in the Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people for 2019.
In May, sprinter Dutee Chand became the first high-profile sportsperson from India to go public about being in a same-sex relationship. She opened up about her partner during an interview with the Indian Express, and revealed how potential ramifications of being in a same-sex relationship affected her.