Danish Sheikh - Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi




Latest News

Apr 07, 2016
by Patrick Wilson
Register for our Newsletter and stay up to date
Register now
Danish Sheikh - Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Fellow featured in New York Times Danish Sheikh at Session 551 - Global LGBT Forum - Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion

Salzburg Global LGBT Forum Fellow Danish Sheikh has been featured in an article for the New York Times entitled “Dreaming of Gay Rights in Delhi.”

Sheikh worked at the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, India, primarily focusing on conducting research and on litigation and activism concerning LGBT rights. He has been assisting with two briefs in the Indian Supreme Court that is attempting to decriminalize homosexuality in India.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code states that people can face life imprisonment for committing “carnal intercourse against the order of the nature.” Due to the subjective interpretation of the order of nature, the law has been used to prosecute members of the LGBT community as well as material to blackmail them.

In the article Sheikh talks about his own personal experiences working to fight the case at the Alternative Law Forum while struggling with his family confronting his sexuality. At one time, his family even sent him to a psychiatrist as an attempt to cure his homosexuality. Confronted with the psychiatrist wild theories, Skeikh threatened to sue him for malpractice - which was followed by a huge fight within his family. But that fight proved to be cathartic. “After that, things got a lot easier,” Danish Sheikh said,

"The origins of Section 377 can be found during the British rule of India in the 1800s. Despite a court decision that finally ended this colonial law and decriminalized sex between consenting adults in 2009, the judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India in 2013."

Now the Indian Supreme Court has accepted to review of Section 377 once again. Sheikh - who recently started to work for the International Commission of Jurists and closely follows the case - explained in an interview with Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, where the process stands: "The latest order from the Court notes that the petition will be referred to a 5 judge Constitution Bench. This indicates that the Court is committed to engaging with the matter at the depth it deserves and will re-examine all the arguments that were raised and discarded in its prior ruling which recriminalized same-sex relations in the country. Hopes are high that the Court will set right the great wrong of that ruling." 

He also pointed out that "the transgender community has often been at the very forefront of LGBT advocacy in the country. The Supreme Court's judgment of 2014 - that affirmed the constitutional rights and freedoms of transgender persons - provided transgender individuals in the country with a path breaking charter of rights. It also paved the way for a more inclusive jurisprudence with respect to sexuality and gender." Sheihk shared his recent Op-ed for the Indian Express in which he explained the potential extensive effects of a Supreme Court vote for the 'right to love' beyond LGBT equality, for example in the protection of now disputed inter-caste unions or inter-faith relationships. 

Sheikh is a member of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum since its third meeting on Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights & Social Cohesion in 2015. You can see his interview on the legal situation in India for the Global LGBT Forum website here

During the session, he hosted a table at the “Knowledge Café” on “Reading between the lines: Battling discriminatory laws.” The group discussed legal mechanisms to push LGBT rights forward, such as narrowing the scope of discriminatory laws or broadening legal principles to make them more inclusive. Sheikh shared with human rights defenders from around the world the legal strategies the LGBT community has used in India, such as making oppressive laws irrelevant by preventing enforcements; fracturing the law by highlighting conflictive laws; and expanding the coverage of transgender laws to include as many LGBT groups as possible.

You can read the full report from the 2015 session here.