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“A Beautiful Moment”: Arundhati Roy Hails Indian Court Legalizing Gay Sex, Overturning Colonial Law

StorySeptember 06, 2018
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India’s Supreme Court has overturned a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, in a major victory for LGBTQI groups. The ruling voids a portion of the Indian Penal Code written by Britain’s colonial government in the 1860s, which, although rarely enforced, made sodomy a crime punishable by up to life in prison. We speak with Arundhati Roy, the acclaimed activist and author based in New Delhi. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, “The God of Small Things.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: India’s Supreme Court has overturned a law criminalizing consensual gay sex, in a major victory for LGBTQI groups. The ruling voids a portion of the Indian Penal Code written by Britain’s colonial government in the 1860s, which, although rarely enforced, made sodomy a crime punishable by up to life in prison. Activists are holding celebrations today across India.

UNIDENTIFIED: But today, and anymore, from now onwards, we are not criminal. We can live our life as who we are. We are really happy. Thank you, Supreme Court!

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy is our guest today, activist and author, speaking to us from New Delhi, India, author of The God of Small Things, as well as her latest book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Arundhati, your response today?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, what can I say? You know, how badly we needed this. And I think it’s a phenomenal judgment coming at this point of time when things are closing down on people, you know, so I hope it’s the beginning of something wonderful. I mean, I couldn’t be happier about this. And I hope—I hope it’s a sign of—it’s a sign of spine also from the Supreme Court. You know, it is a sign of spine, because this is something that is against the grain of the people who rule us today. And it’s a wonderful thing that’s happened, totally wonderful thing, at a time, of course, let’s not forget, where people are being beaten to death for what they call “love jihad.” You know, when you marry or when you have a relationship with someone who’s not of your same—the same caste as you, you can get beheaded. So, these are the love laws, which I wrote about in The God of Small Things. This particular moment is a beautiful moment, but I hope it becomes a moment that changes the nature of the way we look at love.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Arundhati Roy, as these thousands of people were protesting, are protesting today, this new Supreme Court ruling—

AMY GOODMAN: Celebrating.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: —thousands and thousands of people yesterday were marching—workers and peasants were marching in Central Delhi opposing the Modi government. Could you explain what those protests were about and the counterprotests that are taking place in some states today that have been organized by upper-caste people?

AMY GOODMAN: The people today, of course, celebrating the Supreme Court decision.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah, not protesting.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Oh, I’m so sorry. My mistake.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. Well, yesterday, there was a massive march in Delhi. Yeah, there was a wonderful moment of celebration. But yesterday, yes, you’re right, there was a march in which about 100,000 farmers marched from across the country because of the distress in the agricultural sector, you know, absolute distress. I mean, we have more than 200,000 farmers who have been in debt, who have committed suicide. You have a situation in which agriculture is being made almost unviable, you know, so farmers are marching, demanding a minimum support price for their crops.

So, you have all of this that is closing down on this government, and all of us await the new fireball that will fall on us to distract people from these very real issues that are affecting them in real time. You know, they don’t need—I mean, however much propaganda the media puts out, however many lies are told on certain sections of the mainstream TV channels, the point is, ultimately, people are experiencing this for themselves. They don’t need news anchors to tell them everything is all right. You know? People don’t have jobs. People who were promised a sum of 15 lakhs—I’m not sure what that is in dollars, but it’s a large amount of money—when Modi and Amit Shah campaigned, they said—

AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds, Arundhati.

ARUNDHATI ROY: —every Indian will get 15 lakhs in their bank account, and instead, what—

AMY GOODMAN: We have to–

ARUNDHATI ROY: —and instead, what you had was the opposite. With demonetization, they just lost everything.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break right now, but we’re going to go back to Part 2 of our discussion with Arundhati Roy, author and activist based in New Delhi, India.

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