July 8, 2001 is burnt into Arif Jafar’s mind. The Lucknow-based social worker and his colleagues at the non-governmental organisation Bharosa Trust were booked under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code— an 1860 law that criminalises “unnatural sex”—for distributing condoms as part of their outreach to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. They were thrashed in public and hauled into the police station. Jafar remained in prison for 47 days: He was beaten by fellow inmates and the police, who forced him to use brackish drain water to clean food bowls. The case drags on 17 years later. “I feel the brunt even now, going (repeatedly) to the court and the police station,” he said. Life appears to have come full circle for the 47-year-old. On April 27, he filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Section 377. “The petitioner’s sole motivation in approaching this hon’ble court is his wish that no other person should suffer what he had to suffer on account of a discriminatory law i.e. Section 377, IPC and that fellow LGBT citizens can live with the freedom, dignity and respect that they are entitled to,” his petition read.
May 23 / Hindustan Times