On September 6th, 2018, India gave witness to history.
The colonial-era law of the Indian Penal Code was struck down. The law states that individuals of the same-sex cannot engage in consensual sex. The struggle has been a long and quite difficult one for the community. And the celebrations last even to this day.
What makes things even better?
Two lawyers who vigorously fought against the government to bring down the law have come out as a couple.
Yep, you heard that right. We give our mighty salute and respect to Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju. In a recent interview, Guruswamy and Katju gave an explanation that the milestone wasn’t just a professional victory but also a personal one.
They recall their thoughts about the long path and journey they took. This was what brought to the same-sex sexual activity being decriminalised by the Government.
Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katjuhad also were in an argument with the case in 2013. In 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down the law. The country was in celebration, but it was not to be for too long. In 2013, the ruling was overturned. It has stayed the same way, all until 2018.
Here’s what they had to say:
In a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the two lawyers open up about being a couple.
“The loss in 2013 was a loss as lawyers, a loss as citizens; it was a personal loss. It is not nice to be a criminal who has to go back to court as a lawyer to argue other cases,” Guruswamy tells CNN.
‘We were both lawyers at the Supreme Court, and this court had just said that gay people were second-class citizens.’
They share an explanation that the judge, when pronouncing the verdict, said that history does owe an apology to the LGBTQ+ community. They were given a taste of freedom that was revoked from right under their noses. The families that celebrated, the stories that came out and that were soon shoved straight into the closet.
When the two were asked how they celebrated when they successfully overturned the law in 2018, Katju shared a sweet memory that will melt your heart.
“One of the things that meant the most to me was that my parents came to court,” Katju says. “My mom had been wanting to come to see us in action for a long time. It meant a lot”.
They share their views on the colonial-era laws that are slowly but surely being scrapped to make India more Indian. “I think that for all queer folks in all post-colonial countries, our governments have to have a sense that these are not our laws,” Guruswamy also says to CNN. “These were never our cultures. And why have we not being more proactive in expanding freedom? Surely, independence and decolonisation must mean that”.
Katju also explains that the two hope that this verdict might be an inspiration for other post-colonial countries. “Malaysians and Sri Lankans are now looking at how they can use this judgement to overturn anti-gay laws in their countries,” Katju says.
A little history of the two:
Guruswamy and Katju also made international acclaim after the historic SC judgement in 2018. The duo was even named by TIME magazine in their list of 100 most influential people of 2019.
Both Guruswamy and Katju are very well to know lawyers. Guruswamy is a Rhodes scholar who has an LLM degree from the Harvard Law School as well as a D.Phil from Oxford University. She is a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin (2016-17) and also a visiting faculty at several prestigious schools such as Columbia Law School, Yale Law School, and New York University School of Law. Katju is also a James Kent scholar hold an LLM degree from Columbia.
Watch the whole video interview with CNN here:
Soon after the CNN interview was posted on Twitter, Katju shared a photo of her with Guruswamy in court as part of the #SareeTwitter challenge that has been going viral on social media and requires one to post pictures of themselves in a saree.
— arundhatikatju (@arundhatikatju) July 18, 2019