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India's Reinstatement of the Anti Gay Act Is Hideous, But Amazing Things Have Come Out of It

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Four years ago, I wrote a piece for the Guardian saying change was in the air for India, as the government considered repealing section 377 of the Indian penal code to decriminalise homosexuality. That same year, the High Court made the momentous decision to make gay sex legal.

As of two days ago, the Supreme Court reversed the ruling, placing India in the same unsavoury pot as countries like Russia or Uganda.

For campaigners who have slogged for years trying to get their voice heard, for all of those who took part in India's first fledgling gay pride events at the risk of having stones thrown at them, and for the hundreds of gay and lesbian people in India - not to mention those in Britain who desperately want to believe India is a forward-thinking nation - this obviously came as a crushing blow.

But, despite this monumentally stupid, lunar-sized step backwards, there is a thread of optimism.

Since the ruling, two amazing things have happened.

First, the country's media have united in an uproar against the ruling. The BBC quoted the Times Of India as saying: "The ruling as a setback to gender justice, human rights and even public health. The horrendous but impractical implication of the judicial U-turn is that they (homosexual community in India) have to go back into the closet."

I remember when I worked as Grazia India's features editor just before it launched and was told that we didn't really 'cover gay issues' because people wouldn't approve. This wasn't 100 years ago, this was back in 2008.

If the nation's leading papers can unite behind gay rights (something we take for granted here in Britain) when the previous approach to mainstream journalism and taboo topics has been to pretend something doesn't exist, then surely that is a triumph.

The second is around the outgoing judge, who made the ruling at the Supreme Court, saying it was up to parliament to remove the law altogether.

The government didn't wait a few days or a week to comment on the ruling (which is frankly what most of us expected), but rather jumped on it immediately. The country's papers are reporting that Congress, the ruling party is in overdrive to remove the law.

In defence of India (and I do mean India, not the Supreme Court which undertook the decision), I think it's important to recognise that the headlines don't paint the most accurate picture of what's happening in the country - especially those of the Daily Mail whose readers will probably never allow their kids to venture there on a gap year ever again.

I don't want to trivialise the atrocities that go on over there (and some of them are unbelievable) but it pains me that a country I belong to is now viewed as rape central for women, where gay people are lynched in the street.

Let's be clear here: India is not Uganda. Gay people aren't hunted down, outed and tried in court as the norm. And let's not forget injustices perpetrated against gay people happen in developed countries too - if Australia's overturning of Tasmania's gay marriage law is anything to go by.

Yes, it's a travesty India's Supreme Court has overturned the ruling, but I have to take heart in the fact there is such a passionate, vociferous reaction to gay rights in a conservative country known for airbrushing over big issues like this. The fact the country, as a nation, is no longer willing to let this kind of stuff lie, and will not let its minorities fall through the cracks, is surely cause for celebration.

Much has been made of India's attempt to whitewash darker issues in an attempt to present a more advanced, democratic version of itself. I'd agree - there's a lot of heinous stuff that has been conveniently tucked under the carpet when dignitaries pop over for a visit.

But no democratic country begins by getting everything right - Britain wasn't always a bastion for gay rights. The airing of India's issues on a global platform is exactly what it needs to address and process issues like this, so discussions can be had and people can loudly say what is and isn't acceptable.

For a country that has suffered from crippling corruption, this cleansing spotlight is exactly what it needs. I have every bit of faith that eventually, it will get it right. It has to.

Around the Web

India's Supreme Court Reinstates Ban on Homosexuality | TIME.com

BBC News - India top court reinstates gay sex ban

Indian top court says gay sex is an offence - South Asia - Al Jazeera ...

India government likely to review anti-gay sex law | www.statesman ...

India faith leaders: Anti-gay law must stay - CNN.com

India's Anti-Gay Sex Ruling Casts Light on Other Countries With Anti-Gay Laws

Homosexuality is Criminal Again as India's Top Court Reinstates Ban

Setback for LGBT community, SC rules gay sex illegal, upholds Section 377

India's Supreme Court Re-Criminalizes Gay Sex

On the Gaydar: India, Australia, Japan LGBT court rulings and more