FICCI Flo Kolkata chapter organised ‘The Changemakers’, a thought stirring and informative online session that discussed section 377 and Section 66A of the Indian Constitution and their implications on society. The discussion revolved around three major challenges and changes faced by the Indian law – Removal of section 377 and challenges, Section 66A challenge, and gender bias in the judiciary and legal world where the panelists shared their experiences. Ms. Sunira Chamaria, Chairperson, FICCI FLO, introduced the panel, which included Former High Court Judge Nadira Patherya, Celebrity Chef Ritu Dalmia, Lawyer Saurabh Kirpal, and Lawyer Shreya Singhal were the panelists.
Moderator of the session Ms. Nandini Khaitan, Partner, Khaitan and co, started the conversation by shedding light on the current gender imbalance in the bar. “As per a study conducted by The World Bank, India ranks the lowest in the number of female judges with only 80 women judges in the higher courts, and only two being in the Supreme Court while Kolkata has four judges today,” shared Nandini.
Former Judge Ms. Patherya read her paper and shared about the real changemakers in the history of law, “The first real changemaker for me is Cornelia Sorabji” commented Patherya. She also mentioned names like MC Mehta and Bonani Kakkar, amongst others who chose the road not taken and brought the changes we see today. She also shared thoughts on inclusivity in the judiciary system and how things have evolved over the years. She shared her experience by saying, “I couldn’t go for conferences and seminars abroad because the state won’t fund me while the other states would fund the members of the JJ committee in the High court.”
Lawyer Saurabh Kirpal traced the roots of section 377 of the Indian Constitution and shared that the law goes back to the discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community found in the Abrahamic religions and how they viewed sodomy as an ultimate sin against God, which was incorporated in the law later. “It’s us who took so long to normalise it, not British, who adopted the hatred and the mindset that was instilled in us,” added Kirpal.
Ritu Dalmia, celebrity chef, a woman in a same-sex relationship, and one of the petitioners against Section 377 believes that “the real fight is from within than what is with the society.” “Women like me who have done something in their life and are financially independent still have it easy which is not the case with 95% of the country and that is the biggest problem,” she continued. She believes that the gap between the High Court and Supreme Court judgment made the society more accepting, sensitised, and vocal which is a win for everyone.
Talking about the section 66A of the constitution, Shreya shared her thoughts on what insinuated her to take up the case and file the petition. “The 2012 arrest of two girls from Maharashtra for posting on social media against a bandh after the death of a political leader and the rampant arrests in the name of law brimmed saturation and insisted me to take a stand. I could no longer wait for somebody else to do it,” shared Shreya.
In her concluding remarks, Ritu commented that “the families are becoming more accepting, people are coming out of the closet, and it’s not abnormal anymore. This should become a part of the normal conversations.”
Although public perception has changed the people are more accepting of and less homophobic but we have a long way to go, the panel concluded. The session ended with a thank you note from Ms. Sunira Chamaria, Chairperson, FICCI FLO, who also shared her key takeaways from the inspiring session. “We must first try to be a passionate and good human being before expecting a change from society,” concluded Sunira. She also thanked the event coordinators, FICCI FLO members and partners, lead sponsors Damodar Ropeway and Infra Limited, and all other partners.