India’s Supreme Court recognizes sexual orientation as fundamental right: U-M experts can comment
In a historic ruling, the Indian Supreme Court struck down Section 377, decriminalizing gay sex. University of Michigan experts can comment on its impact on Indian society, businesses and culture.
Vikramaditya Khanna, the William W. Cook Professor of Law, is an expert on Indian law and on global corporate law and policy.
“In landmark decision, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that a person’s sexual orientation is a part of the person’s identity and protected under the fundamental rights jurisprudence of the Indian Constitution,” he said.
“The Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and other justices held that a person’s sexual identity was ‘one of many natural phenomena’ and that ‘any discrimination on basis of sexual orientation amounts to violation of fundamental rights.’ They added that ‘human sexuality cannot be reduced to a binary formulation and decriminalizing Section 377 is but a first step.’
“The court’s reasoning often made reference to its recent decision on the right to privacy, suggesting that the full implications of today’s decision may take some time to emerge, but it signals a major development for the protection of the fundamental rights of the LGBQT community.”
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Leela Fernandes, professor of women’s studies and political science, studies the relationship between politics and culture.
“The Supreme Court ruling marks a significant victory for LGBQT rights. This, along
with earlier Court rulings on transgender rights, are important legal milestones on sexuality and equality,” she said. “The next challenges will be ensuring that formal legal rights are translated into substantive equality in everyday life in contemporary India.”
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Aswin Punathambekar, associate professor of communication studies, researches media convergence, media history and public culture, with a focus on South Asia.
“Mainstream media industries in India, including Bollywood, have been notoriously coy about representations of same-sex desire and relationships,” he said. “Hopefully, this landmark legal judgment will spur our filmmakers and television producers to finally catch up and draw inspiration from the incredible work that independent filmmakers and artists have been doing over the past few decades.”
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Joyojeet Pal, assistant professor of information, has studied how Modi uses social media, such as Twitter.
“One of the most important political statements in the striking down of section 377 is that the Indian Congress, the current opposition, has made several public tweets in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said.
“Several key national leaders, including Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada, have endorsed the judgment and congratulated the community. Their official Twitter account had 9 different messages lauding the judgment. In stark contrast, the current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has largely kept mum.”
Puneet Manchanda, professor of marketing, is an expert on business in emerging markets, business in India, and strategy and marketing issues.
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