Indian film, fashion celebs rejoice as gayness is decriminalised

July 02, 2009

New Delhi, “Historic!” That is how the film and fashion fraternities have hailed Thursday’s Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex. Hailing India as great, they said the verdict would give more independence to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.

Hairstylist Sylvie, who is a homosexual, said “this is a day to go down in history”. “This is a day to go down in history that a place like India has come to terms with the issue with a big touch of humanity and definitely recognised citizens’ comfort of being open about their sexuality,” Sylive told IANS.

Tarun Mansukhani, whose film “Dostana” starring John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan lightheartedly touched upon homosexuality, hailed the court’s decision.

“‘Dostana’ as a film only brought the subject into public limelight and had people speak about it and created a certain amount of awareness and acceptance among people – but what the court has done today shows that we do live in a great country,” Mansukhani told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

“Today, they (gays) have an identity, their independence – it’s a great country,” he added.

On Thursday, the Delhi High Court struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that called homosexuality and unnatural sex a criminal act. It said equality and inclusiveness were the tenets of the constitution.

Director Onir, who handled the gay issue in his film “My Brother Nikhil” in a realistic way and received critical appreciation for his endeavour, says the court’s verdict sends out a strong message to everyone.

“At the moment, this is a judgement that has been passed by the Delhi High Court. So it doesn’t stand for the entire country. The government is still to approve it and implement it, but a very strong message has been sent. It’s a very big step and I hope that the legislature implements it,” he said.

“I do feel that films have contributed as far as acceptance is concerned. But in our films, homosexuals have mostly been portrayed as caricatures and the main issue has not been tackled. So I won’t want to take away the credit of this judgement from people who have really worked for it for years. They are the real people,” he added.

Another critically acclaimed filmmaker, Madhur Bhandarkar, who touched upon the homosexuality issue in his successful movies “Page 3″ and “Fashion”, says it’s high time society opened up and created space for these people.

“It is a historic decision and brings big relief to the gay community. They have been fighting for years for their rights and finally the day has arrived. I believe now society has to shed its inhibitions and accept them because it takes a lot to change the mindset of people which indeed would be a slow process,” said Bhandarkar.

Esha Koppikhar is one of the rare Bollywood actresses to have played a homosexual in “Girlfriend”. She feels the verdict will help homosexuals come out of the closet and lead a normal life.

She said: “People have a right to choose their partner as life is beautiful and you want to be with someone you love irrespective of your sexual orientation.

“It’s good that now homosexuals would be open about their sexual preferences unlike before when they used to be shy about it. It would have been difficult for them otherwise. After all, who wants to live a life of dual identity?”

Fashion designer Parvesh is also happy for the gay community. “Indian culture was very elaborate from ancient times and sexuality is a very personal decision. Hence it is good to know that government has finally opened its eyes on section 377.

“It is a great achievement,” he said.

Standup comedian Vir Das said: “I think in the last five years our courts have really been like rock stars with their verdicts. They have meted out justice intelligently.

“I wouldn’t give Hindi films too much credit. I think Hindi films tend to handle everything lightly. So I feel they do not have no bearing on how we view gay rights at all.”

Expressing her happiness over the court’s decision, actress and gay activist Celina Jaitley said: “With great pride and tears I would like to congratulate the entire LGBT community. Homosexuality is now legal in India. Our long battle is won and with pride can the gay walk with their heads held high.”

Manavendra Singh Gohil, an erstwhile Gujarat royal who is gay and an activist at that, said it would be “a very good idea to call this day as the ‘Queer Independence Day of India'”.

“I want to congratulate all intellectuals and activists who have been working actively for the gay community. This verdict also sends out a clear message to other countries who still believe that India is a land of bullet carts and snake charmers. We will be governed by reasons of realities alone and now our morality will be guided by these realities,” he said.

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