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Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: Professional is personal

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Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: Professional is personal

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju were two Indian lawyers who fought to end the law that criminalized same-sex relations in India in 2018. Now they’ve come out as a couple.

In a TV interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, the two advocates said that their victory in September last year wasn’t just a professional achievement, it was also a personal triumph for both women.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: Challenging an antiquated law

In 2018, Menaka and Arundhati both came into the spotlight after they laid down a successful challenge of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code before the Indian Supreme Court.

This 158-year-old law, which criminalized homosexual acts as an “unnatural offence” and punished LGBTQ relations, had been been introduced in India during the British colonial rule.

The two lawyers had earlier tried to get the law repealed in 2013 but they failed. Both of them were also working together on that case.

When the lawyers presented their case in 2018, the Indian Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Section 377 no longer applies to consensual gay sex between adults.

Because of their victory, the two received international acclaim, such that they were even cited by TIME Magazine as two of the 100 most influential people of 2019.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: Brought together by their work

The couple said during the CNN interview that their work to push for the repealing of the law had brought them closer together.

On their loss in 2013, the 44-year old Menaka said: “The loss was a loss as lawyers, a loss as citizens. It was a personal loss. It is not nice to be a “criminal” who has to go back to court as a lawyer to argue other cases.”

“We had a court where we practiced as lawyers and this court had just told us that gay people were second class citizens,” the 36-year old Arundhati said.

In an earlier interview that was published, Menaka said: “If you are a minority of any sort, in any country, a constitutional court is a great avenue for making progress.”

Meanwhile, Arundhati had told media that the Indian high court verdict was a beacon of hope as “Malaysians and Sri Lankans are now looking at how they can use this judgement to overturn anti-gay laws in their countries.”

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: Fighting for visibility

Menaka further said during the CNN interview that they had seen the problem that cost them their case in 2013: the judges had no idea of who gay Indians were despite the fact that she herself was standing before the bench.

As such, they had to find petitioners during the 2016 re-examination of the case that would put a face to the Indian LGBTQ community, which they thought would convince the judges then.

Menaka told CNN’s Fareed: “For queer folks in all these post-colonial countries, our governments have to have a sense that these are not our laws, these were never our cultures.”

“It’s one thing to have an old colonial-era sodomy law. It’s another thing to have that law being upheld by your court in contemporary times,” Menaka added.

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