Right to be and act Queer? : A descriptive analysis of how Indian LGBTQI activists framed Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in order to challenge it, preceding the 2018 Indian Supreme Court verdict to overrule the law
Abstract: This study aims to contribute to the under-researched area of LGBTQI activism in the ‘Global South’ by performing a case study of LGBTQI activism in India, a country that provides an intriguing setting in which a wide range of sexual expressions has developed over time with attitudes towards them varying alongside. Same-sex activities have since the 1860s been considered a penal offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code but in September 2018, the Indian Supreme Court overruled the law and decriminalized same-sex conduct. Within this context, frame analysis has been applied to six petitions by LGBTQI activists, filed to the Indian Supreme Court between 2016 and 2018, to unveil how Section 377 was framed by these activists. Results from the study show that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was framed as intrinsically discriminatory, being violative of constitutional as well as human rights, together with an emphasis on how the law relegates the LGBTQI community to second-class citizenship. Within the dominant framing of the law as discriminatory, the activists engaged in highlighting the imposition of Victorian morals by the British as the origin of the issue, along with factors that have enabled the perseverance of the issue, including the phrasing of the law and court failure to adapt to societal and international change. The subsequent consequences of the law were portrayed as stigmatization and personal losses for members of the LGBTQI community, as well as a negative impact on the state economy. By emphasising such aspects of the law, the activists advocated for the Indian Supreme Court to the overrule Section 377.
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