IKAN report: diversity, inclusion, equality and privacy in India

IKAN Relocations take a brief look at India's history, the legal legacy it was left with and how the country is making some radical changes to archaic laws.

IKAN report: diversity, inclusion, equality and privacy in India
Did you know that India’s ancient name was Bharat? Five thousand years ago Bharat was a leader in Science and Mathematics and its ancient Indus Valley Civilisation was considered the most advanced civilisation in the world. IKAN Relocations contrast India's history with some recent legal changes that are propelling the country forward.In the early 18th century, India had a 29% share of the world’s GDP, which (eventually during the British rule and over the 19th and early part of the 20th century) tumbled to just 3%. In 1947, an independent, resource-rich India found itself to be a country inhabited by the poor, having missed the Industrial Revolution which Western civilisations had embraced.

A legal system holding India back

The British left behind a legal system which India adopted and developed to create its Indian Penal Code but archaic laws belonging to the colonial era were never addressed and continued to hold India back. It was therefore a radical step when in September 2018 the Supreme Court of India made some socially progressive judgements.
Related stories:For related news and features, visit our Immigration section.
It all began when the top court upheld the constitutional validity of the Unique Identification Number (Aadhar). In what was seen as a victory for personal privacy, the Supreme Court struck down the provision which required the linking of the Aadhar number to bank accounts, telephone services and even school applications and directed the government of India to develop better privacy laws and policies.What followed within a few days of the Aadhar verdict was the partial striking down of a regressive British era law popularly known as Section 377, dealing with the criminalisation and definition of unnatural sex, including sex between persons of the same gender.Soon after another archaic law, known as Section 497, dealing with the subject of adultery was abolished and a law prohibiting women from entering and worshipping at the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala was abolished.

Section 377 of the IPC – An outdated law

Section 377 of the India Penal Code was a Colonial era law introduced in 1861 during the British rule in India. The law criminalised gay sex, punishing the offender with imprisonment for life. However, gay sex among consenting adults in private has now been decriminalised – an historic moment for the LGBT community in India as well as globally.

Get all the details in IKAN Relocations article, India welcomes changes to same-sex laws in the autumn issue of Relocate magazine


India can now be seen as a safe destination for the LGBT community – welcoming same sex expat couples to work and settle in the country. The bureaucratic process to immigrate into India will also change when the government of India recognises same-sex married partners, allowing them to bring along their spouse to live with them on long term dependent visas.

Section 497 of the IPC – A patriarchal law

Even though abolition of the adultery law was generally well received, the Supreme court was subject to severe criticism from a few communities. Concerns over protecting the sanctity of marriage were rife but the court said that matter of choice and matter of privacy is an individual’s right, and the constitution will not probe into the relationship of two consenting adults.

The Sabarimala verdict – A mountain of prejudice and discrimination

September 28, 2018, The Supreme Court of India removed a 20th Century ban imposed on women between the age of 10 and 50 entering into the mythical mountain “Sabarimala”, where a shrine for Lord Ayyappa lies.The supreme court of India stated that, “The social exclusion of women is a form of untouchability which is an anathema to constitutional values.” Finally, the verdict was accepted by the Government of Kerala and the Temple Board.Since then, 500 Women Police Personnel have been deployed in Sabarimala, for the welfare and safety of women devotees. The judgment will open doors for women into other Shrines across India.

Conclusion

For a nation which has seen the longest serving female prime minister the world, a minority Sikh prime minister, a Sikh president, three Muslim presidents and a female president (even before America had it’s first black president ), these verdicts were received with mixed emotions – accepted as well as criticised.However, the verdicts were neither in favour nor against any religion, sex or community, the verdicts were solely for society. The Supreme court abolished homophobia from the hearts of the children of this nation and the transformation of the nation’s cultural and political practices will deliver new possibilities for the next generation.
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