Section 377 verdict: Social media erupts with anger but misses HIV link

Section 377 makes gay community vulnerable to HIV/AIDS by making it difficult for institutions to make information and services available to those at risk

By Vani Manocha
Published: Friday 13 December 2013

Supreme Court’s recent decision to criminalise same gender sex and calling Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code a valid provision immediately sparked anger and disgust on the social media. Some called it an infringement on human rights while the others seemed to make no sense of why India is still stuck with “archaic” nineteenth century laws. But only a very few mentioned about its larger link to the HIV awareness and public health.

Section 377, which terms same gender sexual contact a criminal offence, is often used to harass the gay community—in the process making them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

UNAIDS, on Thursday, released a statement and tweeted expressing “deep concern” over the Supreme Court decision. It called for repealing such laws as they “hamper HIV responses across the world”. The statement also highlighted that on an average gay and other men who have sex with men are 13 times more likely to be living with HIV.

From individuals and journalists to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activists and corporates, all expressed their wrath through tweets and pictures.

Pepsi, one of the first corporates to react, came up with a tweet, saying “Supreme Court is so gay”. Later, it disowned the tweet, saying its Twitter account was "compromised". Like on every other current issue, Amul came up with a poster for this one too. The picture showed a girl laying some flowers on a tombstone which read “Freedom of Choice, died in 2013''. The picture is still doing rounds on Facebook, being appreciated by many and even being criticised by some for calling the issue a matter of “choice”. Jewellery brand Tanishq, whose ad on remarriage in India was a recent hit online, followed suit and released a picture of a pair of earrings, accompanied by text that read “Two of a kind always make a beautiful pair #Sec377”.

Individuals and campaigners for gay rights erupted with anger on social media. Below are a few tweets which bring out the anger




International media sites slam decision

International media also criticized the decision which caused much furore online.

While BBC called India “deeply conservative” in one of its stories, the Guardian slammed the decision a “huge step back for the country” and believed the law was “nonexistent merit of vicious 19th-century disciplinary frameworks.” US’ New York Times preferred to go ahead with the headline “India’s Supreme Court Restores an 1861 Law Banning Gay Sex”, clearly highlighting that the law was an archaic one.

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