Lessons for Legalizing Love: A Case Study of the Naz Foundation's Campaign to Decriminalize Homosexuality in India
MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management
In 1860, British colonizers codified Section 377 into the Indian Penal Code. 377 is an anti-sodomy law based on Victorian/Judeo-Christian values which criminalizes homosexuality through judicial interpretation and the manipulation of ambiguous language. On August 15th, 2017, India celebrated 70 years of independence from British control, yet 377 still exerts oppressive control over the safety and freedom of Indian LGBTQI communities. Defining queerness as perversion has caused LGBTQI individuals to become victims of false accusations, blackmail, harassment, housing and workplace discrimination, familial rejection, forced “conversion therapy”, assault, rape, torture, and even murder because of this power imbalance and ensuing legitimization of cultural violence against queer peoples. In 2001, the Naz Foundation filed a petition with the Delhi High Court (DHC) arguing 377 violated Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. On July 2, 2009, the DHC decided in favor of Naz’s petition and read down 377 to exclude private, consensual acts among adults. Gender and sexual minorities throughout India finally received a very special freedom. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, intersex, transgender, hijras, kothis, aravanis, and others who have been historically oppressed for their sexual orientation or gender identity were, for the first time in their lives, no longer criminals for simply expressing their most authentic self. Unfortunately, this freedom was short-lived. Four years later, the Supreme Court of India overturned the DHC’s ruling, reinstating the prior interpretation of Section 377. This resulted in a recriminalization of homosexuality and queerness in India and a continuation of Naz Foundation’s vigorous activism against 377. However, this capstone focuses on the initial campaign (2001-2009) which led to such an historical victory and outlines the advocacy of the Naz Foundation and its allies situated within the socio-political context of India. Their triumph in 2009 has been lauded for the campaign’s tenacity and effective utilization of issue framing, constituency building, and public education. The paper will analyze these strategies and resulting outcomes to identify relevant lessons for policy advocacy practice through conceptual frameworks covered in the Policy Analysis and Advocacy courses at SIT Graduate Institute.
Key Words: Policy Advocacy, Section 377, Naz Foundation, Voices Against 377, Delhi High Court, Issue Framing, Constituency Building, Public Education
Civic and Community Engagement | Civil Rights and Discrimination | Criminal Law | Gender and Sexuality | History of Gender | Human Rights Law | Law and Gender | Law and Society | Legislation | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Litigation | Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation | Political Science | Politics and Social Change | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Sexuality and the Law | Social Policy | Sociology of Culture | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies
Johnson, Preston G., "Lessons for Legalizing Love: A Case Study of the Naz Foundation's Campaign to Decriminalize Homosexuality in India" (2017). Capstone Collection. 3063.
Civic and Community Engagement Commons, Civil Rights and Discrimination Commons, Criminal Law Commons, Gender and Sexuality Commons, History of Gender Commons, Human Rights Law Commons, Law and Gender Commons, Law and Society Commons, Legislation Commons, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Commons, Litigation Commons, Policy Design, Analysis, and Evaluation Commons, Political Science Commons, Politics and Social Change Commons, Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies Commons, Sexuality and the Law Commons, Social Policy Commons, Sociology of Culture Commons, South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies Commons