Some of India’s most powerful celebrities came to the defense of India’s LGBT community this week, following the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate a 153-year-old law banning gay sex.
The contentious law, Indian Penal Code Section 377, criminalizes homosexual intercourse – those found guilty can face up to 10 years in prison. It also overturned a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court that had found Section 377, when applied to consenting adults, to be unconstitutional.
Anushka Sharma was one of the first Bollywood stars to speak out against the ban.
“So disappointed with the [Supreme Court] verdict,” the actress and model wrote on her Twitter account. “Freedom is such a deceptive term. Rights are an ambiguous mystery. #scrap377”
Actor-director Farhan Akhtar also tweeted, “The Supreme Court got it wrong today.”
The December 11 ruling added insult to injury by falling on International Human Rights Day.
“Sec377 is not just a violation of human rights but also makes democrazy seem like a mirage in our country,” wrote My Name is Khan director Karan Johar. “For all those who think that this judgment gives them a right to talk about their self-appointed [machismo], get a life!”
Actress and former Miss India Celina Jaitly, a vocal supporter of India’s LGBT community, said: “377 is in contradiction of three major fundamental rights: Article 14, 15, 21. One day you are legal the next day illegal?”
“Naz India joins a shameful list of cases where [the Supreme Court] has removed rights given by a lower court,” Jaitly added, referring to the gay rights foundation that supported the 2009 Delhi High Court order that decriminalized gay sex. “This decision will ruin many lives.”
Speaking at a peaceful protest in Mumbai, award-winning actress Nandita Das told supporters, “The decision is very regressive and disappointing and we cannot move forward. We need to make our voices heard and it’s only through protests like these that we can make ourselves heard.”
Model-turned-singer Anudhka Manchanda, also involved in the protest, heaped additional support on the LGBT cause.
“I have many friends who are from the LGBT community and many have much stronger relationships than heterosexual couples. What the [Supreme Court] has done has pushed them back in their closets. We need to move with time. They are a sizeable population and their voices should also be heard,” she said.
India’s federal government is already considering new legislation to re-overturn Section 377. While many members of the ruling congress are opposed to the gay sex ban, conservative opposition leaders are pleased with the ruling as it stands.