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How two lawyers earned equal rights protections for LGBTQ citizens of the world’s largest democracy

How two lawyers earned equal rights protections for LGBTQ citizens of the world’s largest democracy
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]


Five people petitioned India’s Supreme Court in 2016 to overturn a law criminalizing gay sex, on the grounds that it violated their rights to equality, dignity, expression, and nondiscrimination. In September 2018, the court unanimously struck down the law and extended equal-rights protections to LGBTQ citizens in the world’s largest democracy. Having various productive LGBTQ Indian citizens—a classical dancer, a journalist, a television chef, a hotelier, and a business consultant—represent the community was the idea of lawyers Menaka Guru­swamy and Arundhati Katju. “Here are prominent business folk who create things in this country, employ people, pay taxes, lead these ‘fullish’ lives,” says Guru­swamy. “And what makes them incomplete is this law.” The lawyers say that the decision has already benefited LGBTQ Indians: Lower courts now cite the ruling to send local police—who previously were using the penal code to keep same-sex couples apart—to protect gay citizens from intimidation from their families or communities.

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