Supreme Court lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy were recently named in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2019. The two advocates led the fight against decriminalisation of homosexuality in India.
In March 2019, Arundhati Katju delivered a TEDx talk in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Sarajevo where she outlined her experience of fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ community in India. “When you have to take down a law and you are an electoral minority and you take recourse to courts, how do you change the minds of the adjudicators when they simply might not know you?” she asked.
Katju fought against section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law against homosexuality introduced by the British in India in 1860. “The law was an expression of the Victorian-era morality but it had come to be understood as an expression of conservative Indian social values,” she said. “Criminal law shuts down on your aspirations,” Katju added.
According to the lawyer, such laws dictate how a person from the targeted community spends their lives and the choices they make with regard to where they live, what profession they choose, and the relationships they get involved in.
The biggest problem in getting LGBTQ people the respect that they deserved was their presence and recognition on a scale that made them visible, Katju said during her talk. She also gave credit to five Indians from the LGBTQ community who were among the first ones to come forward and fight the regressive law in courts.
On September 6, 2018, after years of protest, the Supreme Court of India finally decriminalised homosexuality in India.