HYDERABAD: In the 17-year long legal battle against Section 377 of IPC, it was an entourage of Telugus led by lawyer Menaka Guruswamy from Hyderabad and three IIT petitioners from the Telugu states, whose efforts added in getting the draconian law struck down on Thursday.
Speaking to Express, one of the IIT’ian petitioners, Akhilesh, who hails from Hyderabad said, “It is a very progressive step. A few of the justices also mentioned how the Union of India should now take action in future to initiate sensitisation of police and people. It’s very encouraging that they have gone a step ahead and recognised where the real problems are.” Akhilesh, 25, a data scientist with a start-up told his parents about his sexual orientation while studying in IIT Madras.
It was only in May this year that 20 IITians under the banner of Pravritti approached the Supreme Court to revisit their 2013 judgment that had criminalised ‘unnatural’ sex. “Before this Pravritti was only a secret support group which allowed entry only if one knew one of the members. But now we have a face and stories to the discrimination faced by the LGBTQI community,” added Akhilesh. Their pleas were then led by Menaka Guruswamy, a Supreme Court lawyer from Hyderabad.
“It is a big win. What is most striking is the fact that all the judges, all the four judgments unanimously spoke of Constitutional rights, equality, life and liberty,” said Guruswamy, who had moved the courts and the masses with her plea that how strongly must you love, to withstand being an unconvicted felon.
However, the Telugu petitioners have been quite reluctant about the kind of response they may receive back home. “I grew up in a semi-orthodox joint family in a small town where there was no mention of homosexuality anywhere in media or popular culture, so I always felt there was something wrong with me. Only after I moved to IIT in Chennai could I gain self-acceptance. There needs to be a major positive discourse countering the ‘toxic masculinity’ fed by movies” added Anwesh Pokkuluri, an IIT alumnus from Kakinada.
Adding to that, they opined that Hyderabad was not as open to homosexuality as Bangalore or Mumbai. “While growing up I also had to deal with my share of depression and anxiety for which I could take intervention when I was at IIT. But I can’t imagine how the situation would have been if I was here during that phase. The society, media and popular culture in the Telugu states has been quite ‘backward’ in those terms and has represented us wrongly,” added Akhilesh.