In a landmark move, India became a more equal country on September 6, 2018, after a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court struck down the colonial era-sodomy laws encapsulated in Section 377 of the IPC that made consensual gay sex illegal. On the forefront of the fight were two lawyers, Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, the advocates who represented the five original petitioners in court and fought the case.
Now, almost a year after the astounding victory, the duo have come out on international media as a couple.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the two attorneys admitted that they were indeed a couple and that the victory was not just a professional benchmark but also a personal win.
While speaking about the human impact of the decision to repeal Section 377, Zakaria asked if the case was much more personal to them as the two were not just partners in court but also a couple. In response, both Guruswamy and Katju chuckled and agreed that they were.
"That's right. The loss in 2013 was a loss as lawyers, a loss as citizens. It was a personal loss," said Guruswamy.
"It is not nice to be a 'criminal' who has to go back to court as a lawyer to argue other cases," she added.
Guruswamy and Katju had also argued the case in court in 2013 when the Supreme Court upheld the criminalization of Section 377 after it was decriminalised in 2009 by Delhi High Court.
"We had a court where we practiced as lawyers ... and this court had just told us that gay people were second class citizens", said Katju, who added that it was very difficult.
Guruswamy and Katju earned international acclaim after the historic SC judgement in 2018 after they convinced the very court that had rejected their pleas in 2013 to repeal the colonial-era law. The duo were even named by TIME magazine in their list of 100 most influential people of 2019.
"For queer folk in all post-colonial countries, the governments have to understand that these (anti-sodomy) were not our laws," Guruswamy said. the duo hoped that the verdict in India will act as a beacon for other countries that still have anti-gay laws to open up channels for reform.
Both Guruswamy and Katju are accomplished lawyers. Guruswamy is a Rhodes scholar who has a LLM degree from the Harvard Law School as well as a D.Phil from the Oxford University. She is a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin (2016-17) and also a visiting faculty at several prestigious schools such as Columbia Law School, Yale Law School, and New York University School of Law. Katju is also a James Kent scholar hold an LLM degree from Columbia where.
Speaking about September 6, the day when Section 377 was finally repealed, Katju said that the best thing that happened after the verdict was that they could all celebrate together including her parents, who had come down to court to watch her and Guruswamy in action.
Soon after the CNN interview was posted on Twitter, Katju shared a photo of her with Guruswamy in court as part of the #SareeTwitter challenge that has been going viral on social media and requires one to post pictures of themselves in a saree.
Most court days you'll find me in a sari! Something about the 6 yards makes me sit up a little straighter, collect my thoughts and energy for arguments... #SareeTwitter pic.twitter.com/U9HDEyT70C— arundhatikatju (@arundhatikatju) July 18, 2019
The two lawyers are not the first ones to come out about their orientation this year. Recently, Indian sprinter and current national champion in the women's 100 metres event, Dutee Chand, also came to the world as gay, becoming India's first openly queer female athlete.