Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, the two lawyers who successfully argued the case for the Indian decriminalisation of homosexuality, are a couple.
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The pair spoke to Fareed Zakaria of CNN about the long battle for gay law reform in India.
They first attempted to win Indian decriminalisation in 2013.
On that occasion, Menaka said they knew they faced a loss following the senior judge asking the government attorney if he knew any homosexuals.
The attorney chuckled aloud and said, “No my lord, I’m not that modern.”
Menaka said from then on the team fighting for decriminalisation knew the importance of LGBT visibility.
“We decided we would never again let LGBT Indians be invisible, in any courtroom, starting with that one, that court.”
“So, when we went back to court in 2016, we took real life LGBT Indians.”
Menaka Guruswamy & Arundhati Katju on CNN
Fighting for Indian decriminalisation as a couple
“The loss in 2013 was a loss as lawyers, a loss as citizens – it was a personal loss… a deeply personal loss,” said Menaka.
Arundhati said, “It was very difficult. We had a court where we practiced, where we were both lawyers at the Supreme Court, and this court had just said that gay people were second class citizens.”
Consequences of Indian decriminalisation
The women said they are also hopeful the Indian Supreme Court decision will influence courts in other post-colonial countries.
Arundhati said, “Many of these former colonies have sodomy laws because of our shared history of British colonialism.”
Activists in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore also took inspiration from the Indian reform.
Menaka said the Indian reform showed the way forward for former colonies to shake of their colonialist past.
“I think for queer folks in all these post-colonial countries our governments have to have sense that these are not our laws, these were never our cultures.
“Why have we not been more pro-active in bringing forth law reform and expanding freedom.
“Surely independence and decolonisation must mean that.”
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