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Brave New World: Problematising ‘Queer’ in Post-Section 377 India

Gourab Ghosh and Swati Moitra


The decriminalisation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2018, which deemed homosexuality as a crime for more than 160 years, happened during the rule of a muscular right-wing regime. This decriminalisation of homosexuality brought legal relief and an end to social anxiety for many. It also highlighted the necessity of bringing radical politics to queer activisms in India, even as right-wing endorsements of non-heteronormative sexualities and the aggressive self-fashioning of ‘Hindu queers’ marked a surge of homonationalism in ‘new India’.

It is important to note that the history of queer struggles in India cannot be looked at as a movement. These struggles continue to lack an Indian understanding of ‘queerness’, as they have not yet grasped the importance of talking about the idea of ‘queerness’ in Indian bhashas (languages). These struggles, rooted in urban India, also lack a concrete political vision to harness the political potential of the idea of ‘queer’, especially the idea of an ‘Indian queer’.

This paper, through revisiting of moments of queer activisms in India, through anecdotes and experiences of political activism, will posit the question: who is an ‘Indian queer’? And what or how do they think of themselves as queer citizens of a carceral state that uses law, power and extra-judicial forces to oppress marginalised communities based on gender, sexuality, caste, and religion? The period post-Section 377, this paper will argue, must be looked at as a period of transition for queer activism in India, one that remains under considerable threat courtesy the surge of homonationalism, the passing of the Trans Act, and the consolidation of a normative ‘good’ queer identity at the cost of  unwieldy ‘Others’.

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