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Meet the couple at the forefront of India’s same-sex legislation

couple

The largest democracy in the world decriminalising same-sex relations was huge, but it started with the determination of one couple.

The march to India decriminalising same-sex relations was a mosaic of smaller struggles. prior to yesterday, Earlier efforts involved a public interest suit brought by an HIV-prevention group, which won a celebrated but limited victory in 2009 that was overturned four years later. Yesterday’s win began with a petition that was first filed back in 2016, but it depended on the grit, gristle and nous a couple fought for the better part of 25 years.

Navtej Singh Johar, 59, a classical dancer and a yoga teacher, and his partner, journalist Sunil Mehra, 63, never planned to be a test case. They focused on their own lives and passions. Johar knew early on that he wanted to be a dancer, and trained in classical Bharatanatyam. Mehra wrote for leading Indian publications about women’s rights, the threat to coral reefs off India’s coasts, and at times, his own experiences being a gay man in India.

The two became a couple after Mehra was assigned to write a profile of Johar. After meeting the dancer, he came back to the office to tell his editor he wouldn’t be able to do it objectively. Six months later the couple moved in together, and later opened a yoga and dance studio. Through the yoga studio, they befriended a pair of lawyers who would eventually help persuade them to be at the forefront of a new effort to tackle Section 377, a colonial-era criminal statute that made “unnatural sex” punishable by between 10 years in jail and a life sentence.

Their petition against it indicated that the couple were together for 20 years. It also said that though Mehra had been targeted at times for being gay, he never reported it to the police for fear of being targeted under the aforementioned section. Along with notable others, they soon put their own lives on hold, and petition the court to declare 377 unconstitutional.

Mehra spoke of their decision, in an interview with the Guardian:

We have been OK. I am 63—we have lived our lives. We had fought for our bit of sun and we found it. It was more for all those who didn’t have our class privileges, education, intellect, money and connections to insulate them. It was so that these other lives could be lived in the sun, rather than in burrowed, dark spaces.

You go guys, you go.

 

 

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