How A 156-Year-Old Homophobic Law Is Tearing Young Indian Couples Apart

Violent homophobia hides behind an archaic penal code and corrupt legal system. The country is making some progress, but not fast enough.
Kris and Deva were two young student doctors in love. They met while at school in India and were together for a year until Deva’s sister told her parents about the relationship she was having with another woman. On January 2, Deva’s parents paid local law enforcement to march into the school and grab Deva, violently separating the couple.
The story of Kris and Deva is not uncommon in India. In November 2013, Indian police conducted a brutal raid during Diwali and arrested 13 people for the crime of homosexuality in a town near Bangalore. They were charged under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and their names were broadcasted to the entire country. Many of them lost their jobs.
Despite gaining independence from the British in 1947, India has been grappling with colonial anti-homosexuality laws which enshrined most explicitly in Section 377 of its Penal Code. The country has been making strides in LGBTQ rights, with its recognition of “third gender” citizens and its promise made earlier this month to revisit Section 377, in which homosexuality is deemed an “unnatural offense.” But homophobia still remains present and often has violent consequences.
Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life…
Section 377, Indian Penal Code
After Deva was taken away by her parents and kept under house arrest at their home in India, Kris returned to the United States, where her parents live, in January. Here, she launched a social media campaign to free Deva and bring light to how legalized homophobia hurts young Indians.
Through videos, blog posts and fundraising Kris speaks at length about her own experiences dealing with Indian law enforcement. Her YouTube videos, in which she candidly discusses what happened, are routinely taken down as Deva’s parents flag them as “inappropriate.”
HuffPost spoke with Kris about her experiences and how LGBTQ people are treated in India.
Why did this happen? Why were you and Deva separated?
How could this happen?
The corruption of the Indian legal system is the main reason Deva’s parents are able to get away with what they are doing.
First, Deva’s parents tried to save their daughter’s name by claiming that I was extorting her for money and therefore forcing her to be my lover. Then they jumped to claiming that she was unable to make decisions for herself because she was under the influence of drugs. Drugs they claimed I was giving her. These were just any other reasons to divert the fact that we are simply just two homosexuals in love. By taking advantage of their legal privilege, accompanied by lawyers and “government” officials, their false claims turned out to be valid enough for their courts.
Did you have any warning you and Deva would be violently separated? Did you think it would happen?
Since the moment the secrecy of our relationship was threatened, we could definitely sense the threat of separation. Simply being together in India was a statement on its own.
We lived in fear for a while, using the buddy system to go everywhere, walking with keys between our knuckles, but the measures we took to protect ourselves were clearly not enough. We never expected Deva to be kidnapped in the lobby of our college building, as much as we never thought that her family would resort to violence. Sending a small army of men to carry off a 90 pound girl was something we could never have foreseen.
We never expected Deva to be kidnapped in the lobby of our college building, as much as we never thought that her family would resort to violence.
What avenues are you pursuing to be reunited? What are your goals now?
After realizing that the one thing that Indian society truly fears is the disruption of its image, I knew that the only way I could fight back was with the help of social media. I hope that by doing so, this will draw more attention to my story, and even be an ounce of hope for people like me.
Do you think what happened to you happens a lot in India or here in America?
I think this happens more frequently than people feel comfortable admitting. When someone does try to step out of social boundaries, society finds ways to force us back into our places. We have no voice for our growing community.
In this fight to free Deva, I have encountered countless similar stories, both tragic and hopeful. Just because others are not sharing their experiences with the public does not mean that these stories do not exist. In fact, they exist more than even I could have imagined. Being in touch with so many LGBT activists and advocates in India, and even hearing their success stories, has kept me hopeful but has also made me realize that this is going to be a life-long battle. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I hope that I will be a contribution for our fight, so that these things stop happening as frequently as they do now.
Source: HuffPost