I came out 13 years ago. I was always gay. I was born gay. There was not even a second that I doubted my sexualityKeshav Suri
Keshav Suri, the Executive Director of the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) demanding scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises homosexuality.
“It’s not just about decriminalising, it’s also about every citizen, every consenting adult in this country having a right to choose their sexual orientation, a right to choose their partner, a right to dignity and a right to living without a sense of fear that they are going to be arrested,” said Suri.
"The State or Centre Can’t Enter Anybody's Bedroom"
Though the SC has heard several petitions in the past to decriminalise homosexuality, Suri said that the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016 was something that got him thinking.
There was the Orlando shooting that happened in the US and that got me thinking about what if it (a shooting) ever happened in India, and whether people would turn around and say, ‘Oh! because they are illegal, it’s good that they all were shot.’Keshav Suri
Suri said that the biggest factor that helped in the filing of the petition was the privacy law, that says that neither the state nor the Centre has a right to enter anybody’s bedroom.
Loss of ‘Pink Money’
One of the points that makes Suri’s petition stand out is his argument regarding ‘pink money’ — the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community.
The petition, quoting a World Bank study on ‘The Economic Cost of Homophobia’, states that the estimated annual cost of homophobia in India is between 0.1 percent to 1.7 percent of GDP. The petition also says that in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, pink money has gone from being on the fringe to mainstream.
“Mr Mukul Rohatgi, who is the lawyer fighting for this petition, told the court, ‘Why are we discouraging tourists from outside of India who might want to come because of the fact that there is Section 377? Why are we hampering tourism of this country?’” said Suri.
There are so many businesses and tour operators that cater to the LGBTQ community. Real estate development has happened across the world because of the LGBTQ community. Look at Chelsea in New York, look at SoHo in London, go to Sydney and Melbourne. So why are we denying ourselves that right?Keshav Suri, Petitioner
Not an Easy Road
Being the fourth child after three sisters in his family, Suri said that there was an initial struggle when he came out to his family and friends, but eventually, acceptance was an education for all.
“It was a Punjabi-family empire, that the son should run. Well, a son can run and a gay son can easily run it too. If it wasn’t for their love, support and understanding, their change and the way I was able to change their minds, I wouldn’t be able to do this interview today, I would not be able to file a writ petition,” said Suri.
Suri said that he did face discrimination while growing up, being in an all-boys school, but he also reiterates that he is aware of his privileged position.
What’s worse is the discrimination of millions down the lines, who are not in the same position as I am. Hear their stories... hear the story of one of my team members who had acid thrown on her because she is a transgender. Hear her story about how she had to be a prostitute at 10 years old to make her mom to survive. Hear how she is transitioning. Hear about her struggle.Keshav Suri, Petitioner
Suri said that there are many out there who do not have it easy like he did. And this is why he has launched the ‘Pure Love’ campaign to help queer people cope with depression.
I am not an activist, I am not a socialist, I have no political agenda. I am just a citizen exercising my fundamental rights. I am a tax-paying citizen. I am from a very privileged background, I guess. And because of that privilege, why not use that in the correct sphere?Keshav Suri, Petitioner
(This article was originally published on 1 May 2018. It is being republished from The Quint’s archives to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.)
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