Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-02-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Views: Why India's S.377 ruling is not Stonewall
Special to the Online Edition of Windy City Times
by Yasmin Nair

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

India's Delhi High Court issued a ruling about Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code July 2, marking a historic day for the country's LGBTQ population. For over a century, S. 377 codified the prohibition of "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." It should be noted that S. 377 has not been overturned; it has been "read down" so that consensual homosexual sex is no longer criminalized. The law still applies to "non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors."

This is a triumphant day for India's myriad queer activists who have been working on this case for nearly a decade, not an uncommon length of time in a country whose judicial system still bears an eerie resemblance to that found in the pages of Dickens's Bleak House. Yet, there is already evidence of the ruling being appropriated into a rapidly growing and problematic discourse about a "global gay" identity. Specifically, the landmark case is being hailed as "India's Stonewall."

It may be natural to transmit the verdict's importance in terms that are legible across borders. But calling the 377 ruling "India's Stonewall" assumes an unchanging and ahistorical gay reality across time and place, where all gay struggles are the same and achieve the same logical goals. And, in the process, we erase the realities of both Stonewall and 377.

This ruling is not India's Stonewall because Stonewall isn't quite the Stonewall we would like it to be. That's not to take away from its importance but to emphasize that Stonewall was a symptom, not the culmination or the spark, of a long history of explosive moments that includes the 1966 Compton's Cafeteria riot in San Francisco. Both events involved mostly trans people, poorer queers, and people of color who were fed up of continual police harassment. Today, as we mark the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the history of the state's continuing brutality over the disenfranchised is being erased. Most of this June's celebrations of Stonewall made it seem like the originary moment that sparked a "revolution" moving towards the eventuality of gay marriage.

The 377 ruling is the culmination of a long legal battle, and it comes from a vastly different political terrain. I spoke to Svati Shah, Assistant Professor of gender and sexuality at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who is also a queer South Asian and an activist with the South Asian Solidarity Initiative and Youth Solidarity Summer, both left/progressive activist spaces. Shah, who identifies as a "feminist queer secularist," pointed out that the reading down of 377 came about in a country that boasts of two Communist Parties, both of which have women's wings. Many of the members of India's queer movement have strong ties to the Left in India. In addition, she said, India is home to a women's movement that is not as fully entrenched in the non-profit industrial complex as the women's movement in the U.S. "not funded, and have the political latitude to say and do things on the edge. They are, for example, more free to complicate the notion of a liberal model of sexuality, [ the kind that rests upon the strict distinction between private and public ] , and have a built strong alliances with queer and trans movements."

In contrast, LGBTQ struggles in the U.S have been deradicalized in favor of a liberal human rights discourse that prioritises individualized desires over coalitional movement building. Gone are the collective struggles of the 1960s and '70s, when gay and lesbian activists emerged from and with labour and feminist struggles. Gone are the days of early AIDS activism when queers fought for health care alongside the uninsured. In its place is a notion of "gay rights" focused on individuals seeking to affirm their private relationships in the eyes of the law.

Lastly, the question of class is crucial to 377. The ruling comes about in a country where the struggles of queers cannot be separated from the realities of class and poverty in a country of over a billion.

You cannot avoid class in India the way we avoid it in the U.S. In India, it's impossible to make poverty disappear by coining euphemisms like "the working poor," or by building shelters to make the homeless invisible at night. India's poverty is brutal, grinding, and hits you in the face every time you step out of your door. Indian queer activists are not all fully engaged with class issues. The anthology Because I have a Voice, edited by Gautam Bhan and Arvind Narrain, features accounts by Indian queers who write about the difficulties of working across class boundaries. The stigmas attached to poverty and "lower" class identities mean that English-speaking and upper class queers might refuse to work with or live in buildings where poorer queers can be wilfully excluded.

Despite these issues, India's queer activists have built strong coalitions across class and caste boundaries to reach this moment, and queers everywhere should rejoice at the dismantling of yet another absurd law that criminalizes us. In terms of struggle and solidarity, the 377 ruling is ours. But it also has its own contexts and pathways, and we would be remiss if we made too much of it being "our" history.

Yasmin Nair is a writer and activist; this is part of a longer work on S. 377. She can be reached at .

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


VIEWS In 2020, being queer could be key to a courageous career 2020-02-08
OPINION 'Trans-formal' education 2020-02-05
VIEWS Warren's America would center our voices 2020-01-28
VIEWS College for LGBTQ students 2020-01-22
THE AMAZON TRAIL The tabloid edition 2020-01-22
LETTER Impeachment 2020-01-22
MOMBIAN LGBTQ parenting: The year in review 2020-01-08
THE AMAZON TRAIL All I want for the holidays is a left earbud 2019-12-24
MOMBIAN Childhood stories of LGBTQ, other social justice activists 2019-11-26
LETTER GroceryLand anniversary 2019-11-26
THE AMAZON TRAIL The Terminator 2019-11-13
LETTER Voice your choice 2019-11-13
Halloween unmasks our troubled history with race 2019-10-30
LETTER Response to hate 2019-10-30
MOMBIAN LGBTQ-inclusive books, and hope, in rural schools 2019-10-16
GUEST COLUMN Ignorance and shortsightedness lead us to the Supreme Court 2019-10-02
LETTER Attorneys needed 2019-10-02
Activists halt U.S. Conference on AIDS to protest CDC 2019-09-18
VIEWS Visibility isn't the goal 2019-09-18
REELING 2019 The reviews are in 2019-09-17
VIEWS A straight man's foray into an LGBTQ world 2019-09-04
Remembering Michael Bauer, a call to pick up the baton 2019-09-03
Kinley Preston previews Lips Chicago dinner theater 2019-08-21
We need to talk about the 'Pose' hospital episode right now 2019-08-07
OP-ED How 'Queen Sugar' increases Black LGBTQ visibility 2019-08-06
Volumes of racism, xenophobia on blast 2019-07-24
LETTER Ruffled feathers 2019-07-23
Larry Kramer gives us one more chance to wake the f*ck up 2019-07-10
Moments in the Public Health Response to AIDS, CDPH LGBTQ Outreach Keynote June 28 2019-07-01
Looking back, looking forward 2019-06-26
We remember, we celebrate, we believe 2019-06-18
LETTER Respecting elders 2019-06-18
CONCERT REVIEWS X and The Damned, Gogol Bordello, Bettye Lavette and more 2019-06-17
New report reviews laws, policies affecting LGBTs in U.S. territories 2019-06-11
Vatican publishes anti-LGBT document 2019-06-10
Trans deaths are real deaths 2019-06-05
Five reasons the Gilead deal is a steaming pile of Truvada 2019-05-22
MOMBIAN Princess, maiden fall in love in new children's book 2019-05-22
Support for trans students starts with their names 2019-05-08
The religious (lack of) conscious rule 2019-05-08

Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.