Humsafar Trust recounts how Sec 377 was used to harass, extort and blackmail

Written by CJP | Published on: September 6, 2018

Ashok Row Kavi, The Humsafar Trust founder Chairperson, Vivek Anand, CEO, Suhail Abbasi, trustee, and its staff members Yashwinder Singh and Gautam Yadav were petitioners before the Supreme Court.


Humsafar Trust
 
After the landmark verdict on Section 377, Mumbai’s Humsafar trust released a statement congratulating the community and highlighting the new journey for LGBTQ rights ahead.
 
"The Humsafar Trust welcomes the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377. We believe this is the beginning of a new journey for the LGBTQ community in India. This verdict comes after sustained advocacy for over 18 years on the issue. At long last, the law does not criminalize consensual sexual acts between adults, occurring in private. LGBTQ Indians can finally enjoy equality before the law, freedom of expression, personal autonomy and right to dignity as enshrined in Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It is now time to gear up for our fight towards further rights including legal recognition, marriage rights, employment rights, anti-discrimination laws, adoption and other legal rights which have been historically denied to us,” their statement said.
 
Ashok Row Kavi, The Humsafar Trust founder Chairperson, Vivek Anand, CEO, Suhail Abbasi, trustee, and its staff members Yashwinder Singh and Gautam Yadav were petitioners before the Supreme Court.
 
"18 years of hard work has finally paid off but this is just the beginning of a long journey for equal rights in society. There is so much more to do, so many dreams have to come true, but today I look forward to a good night's sleep for I am no longer a criminal!” said Ashok Row Kavi, Founder Chairperson, The Humsafar Trust.
 
"I am happy that once again I will be living without Section 377 as I was living previously from July 2009 to Dec 2013. The verdict against section 377 will be a huge support to deal with the crisis cases and the fight for the human rights of the LGBTQ community. All the people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella can live and ask legal assistance without the fear of being prosecuted under Section 377,” said Yashwinder Singh, Program Manager, The Humsafar Trust
 
Humsafar Trust's petition in the Supreme Court
The petition has claimed that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code deprived LGBTQ persons of equality before the law, freedom of expression, personal autonomy and right to dignity in direct violation of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The petition had urged the apex court to restrain the authorities from enforcing section 377 with regard to consensual, sexual conduct between adults in private.
 
Section 377 of IPC used to harass, extort and blackmail
* Between 2016–2018, HST’s crisis response team has attended to 83 crises cases in Mumbai. Of these 83, 6 cases involved an adult, homosexual male being blackmailed by the police under the fear of Section 377, IPC. In 12 cases, adult, homosexual males were threatened of a false accusation under Section 377, IPC and victims of extortion by ordinary persons, sometimes upto Rs. 1,00,000/-.
 
* An online survey conducted by HST involving gay men and transgender persons revealed that around 57% had been subject to the fear and misuse of law under Section 377, IPC at least once in their lifetime in varying degrees, with 37% having experienced victimization within the last 12 months at the time of the survey.
 
* Crisis data reports by HST found 52 independent instances were LGBTQ persons have faced harassment and discrimination in workplace and healthcare settings because of their identity but none of these individuals sought or could seek legal recourse.
 
* In 2016, HST undertook a study titled “Understanding the Impact of the Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 on LGBTQ Communities”. The results showed that 2 in 5 LGBTQ persons had faced blackmail or know someone who has been a victim of blackmail since the Supreme Court’s decision to recriminalize homosexuality.
 
* In 2017 HST conducted a study with the Transgender community in three cities (Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore) found study 59 percent of Transwomen experienced violence.
 
* Section 377 also affected lesbian women, bisexual women and transpersons (transmen in particular) as well. It is used to harass lesbian couples and as an impediment to lesbian relationships. There have been numerous reports of lesbian couples being harassed/ dissuaded from staying together using Section 377. Between 2017 and 2018, The Humsafar Trust, through its LBT support group Umang, handled 4 cases of lesbian couples facing harassment from police and their families for wanting to be in a same-sex relationship.
 
About The Humsafar Trust
The Humsafar Trust (HST) is a community-based organization (CBO) in Mumbai working since 1994 in the area of health and human rights of sexual minorities. HST currently reaches out to 7500 Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender (TG) across Mumbai through 3 Targeted Interventions (TIs) and its 4 clinics funded by NACO–MDACS (National AIDS Control Organization and Mumbai District AIDS Control Society). 
 
HST has nurtured support groups “YAARIYAN” for young LGBT, “UMANG” for LBT persons and ‘SANJEEVANI” for persons living with HIV. HST also provides legal support, crisis management, mental health counselling and nutrition counselling to its communities. HST is the convener of the Integrated Network for Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM) which has 126 CBOs as its member organizations representing 19 states in the country.