Putting the love in law

Published: Sep 07, 2018, 07:00 IST | Paromita Vohra

The Supreme Court judgment on Sec 377 acknowledges the idea of love, often trivialised, as the essence of humanness itself

Putting the love in law
LGBT activists celebrate at Carter Road. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Paromita Vohra"What makes life meaningful is love. The right that makes us human is the right to love." That is how the Supreme Court judgment, which read down Section 377, a law that criminalised same-sex relationships, begins. Love is the thing that makes change possible.

Love is the journey we make in order to accept someone different from us. Our desires, uncontrollable, undeniable even when unrecognisable, help us to cross boundaries, generate new emotional languages, which eventually render new social possibilities, and eventually new laws.

So, it is fitting and beautiful that this judgment acknowledged the idea of love, something trivialised even by many liberal types, as encompassing, as the essence of humanness itself. It reminded us that threaded with this look of love, the law can be a beautiful thing, poetic and enabling, recognising individual choice almost tenderly, setting free a hundred heart-shaped questions about the meaning of freedom.

Quoting poetry from Vikram Seth to Leonard Cohen, the judgment recognises how gender stereotypes, majoritarian impulses, binaries about sex and relationships, the right to privacy and bodily autonomy, the fluidity of sexual relations - all these impact individual and intimate choice.

In office, we whooped as the news came out. Within a few minutes, a colleague got a call from a friend. We could hear her excited voice as she discussed that she wanted to come out to her parents on this historic day. My colleague dissuaded her. We asked later if the parents were very conservative. "Not really" was the reply. "But why mar this happy day with any tension? It's not so simple, na. Also, she has an exam tomorrow."

This little moment is the larger moment too. There is a surge of ecstasy and triumph. Yet, we know that the journey from citizenship to personal acceptance, from the symbolic idea of equal rights to the reality of social acceptance and respect is a complicated one. Or, as a friend of mine joked on Facebook: "Indian parents to their LGBT kids right now - ab toh shaadi kar lo!"

But then, the 25-year journey to this moment has not been uncomplicated either. There have been reversals, deeply painful language when the 2009 Supreme Court judgment dismissed LGBT people as a miniscule minority, essentially not worth bothering about, media cruelty, social disrespect, suicides, silence, sadness.

That we stand here today, with Section 377 read down but more, with parents of LGBTQ people fighting for their rights, with pride parades in dozens of small towns, shows that the complicated road does lead to change. That belief, love, political commitment, activism, people working and disagreeing together - these things matter. Along this road, conservatives expressed fear that marriage and social fabric, as they know it, would change. They are right. It will. It must. When you start to contemplate one freedom, you cannot but contemplate another.

Three years ago, as part of a project called Agents of Ishq, we made a video on an inclusive Rose Day celebration in a Mumbai college. Its inclusiveness arose from students' simple desire to have their queer friends also be of an annual college ritual. But as preparations began, they began to question the very definition of love and romance until finally their inclusiveness extended to all kinds of relationships, straight and queer, friendship, crush, even hate! These conversations will gather momentum the way LGBT rights have done, too - polyamory, friendship, asexuality, bisexuality - the entire perfumed satin potli of our lived intimate lives will open up now, at last. We will discuss a million ways of being queer. It's gonna be awesome.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevipictures.com

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