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Project June 21, 2018

Limbo for India’s LGBTQ Community

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Media file: lgbtq-india_2-02945.jpg
Image by Jake Naughton. India.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalized Section 377 of the penal code, which made same-sex sexual activity illegal. When the decision came down, many believed it was a huge step in a march toward progress in the rapidly changing country.

So the shock was widespread when, just a few years later in 2013, the Supreme Court nullified that decision. As a result, India has the peculiar distinction of being one of the only (if not the only) countries in the world to have decriminalized and then re-criminalized homosexuality.

Though court convictions are real, they are uncommon. Instead, the law provides legal cover for harassment, physical abuse, and a general climate of homophobia and transphobia. What's more, though the law is back on the books, the interstitial years of freedom cannot be erased or forgotten as easily as a rule can be reinstated. For untold numbers of LGBTQ people who thought they were leaping into a sunny future, the reality is very murky.

In January this year, the Supreme Court announced it would revisit its decision by October, and activists have said they are "cautiously optimistic." Until then, however, the uncertainty continues.

Through extensive interviews and portraits, this project explores what it's like to be queer in the present moment in India. And in the age of Trump, Brexit and other dramatic about-faces, this work explores one community's sudden shift in fortunes, a microcosm of the global tides rewriting our collective sense of progress.

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