A new writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court against Section 377 of the Indian Penal code by a group of 20 IITians on behalf of 350+ LGBT alumni, students, staff and faculty from the IITs who are a part of an informal pan-IIT LGBT group – Pravritti.
The petitioners, two of who are female and one a trans woman, belong to a diverse set of socio-economic backgrounds, castes and gender. 90% of the petitioners are recent alumni below the age of 30 with the youngest petitioner being 19 year old. They hail from different parts of India; from metropolitan cities of Mumbai, Delhi etc to small towns like Kakinda in Andra Pradesh to Korba in Chattisgargh.
This writ petition seeks “a declaration of their right to equality before the law and non-discrimination on account of their sexual orientation and that Section 377 violates Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.”
The petition also throws light on the repercussions of the stigmatization faced by the individuals due to Section 377, the encroachment of their basic rights and how it affected various aspects of their lives including their academics, career and mental health. The criminalisation of their sexual identity and silence and rejection of the legislature to remove the law has driven many of them on the path of depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies leaving them with “a sense of shame, loss of self-esteem and self-worth,” the petition states.
The petition also highlights how many of them had to choose organisations (both public and private) keeping in mind the progressive policies that would be more accommodating and accepting of their identities over the ones with better pay and opportunities for their career. “Section 377 is depriving highly skilled and deserving candidates of a lifetime of opportunity and often leads to brain drain,” the petitioners state. “We have been denied equal access to the state apparatus, been deprived of the chances’ to uninhibitedly seek love and companionship to the point that many are even considering leaving the country and settling abroad or have done so.”
The Supreme Court is likely to hear the petition by the end of this week, before it breaks for Summer. This petition follows other similar petitions that have been filed by eminent personalities as well as individuals belonging to the LGBT community challenging the constitutionality of Section 377. Supreme Court had agreed to hear a curative petition filed against the 2013 verdict of the court that had reinstated Section 377.