'How my life changed after I was booked under Sec 377'
An NRI businessman from SoBo speaks about his five-year ordeal, how he was exploited by Mumbai police and the price he had to pay
"I did not even know what Section 377 was until I got a call from the police station. I didn't understand what was criminal in my actions," said a 49-year-old NRI businessman from south Mumbai who was slapped with an FIR for gay sex after his wife found out about his male lover in 2009. Over the next five years, Vikram (name changed) was allegedly harassed by the police, whom he paid over Rs 10 lakh as hush money.
Today, Vikram is living a better life in Canada with his husband of four years. But the SoBo businessman can never forget the trauma he suffered at the hands of the Mumbai police after his wife filed a case against him under Section 377 of the IPC, a British-era law that criminalised same-sex relations.
It was in March 2009 that his wife outed him to the Gamdevi police. Vikram remembers it like yesterday. "I had never even been to a police station before, never had any need for lawyers, until I was booked under Section 377. I was shocked by everything that followed. The police started playing a cat-and-mouse game with me as soon as they learnt that I hail from a rich family," he recalled.
Life was in freefall
At that time, it felt like he was losing everything. His family could not accept the fact that he was a married man with a child, engaged in a gay extra-marital affair. His marriage with his wife was torn apart, and he even had to part ways with his lover abruptly after the case was filed. But the worst of all was the way the police chased him for years.
"The police made lot of money from me; they demanded mobile phones, sometimes cash, without any hesitation, all under the pretext of 'not harassing me'. I had to cough up more than 10 lakh over the years. All this felt humiliating and beneath me, so I moved to Canada in 2014, where human rights hold much more importance," said the NRI.
Vikram found initial relief from the judiciary, when a Sessions court granted him anticipatory bail. But the district court rejected his petition for discharge of the case, despite the fact that the Delhi high court had in 2009 ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional.
But dealing with the police was worse. "I wasn't aware about the level of dishonesty among the police. They thought it was just a money-making job. They would openly ask me for money. They told me they had the FIR against me, that they didn't want to harass me," said Vikram.
He added, "I was a grown man from a well-to-do background, but what if they are also taking advantage of younger men with humbler backgrounds? Can you imagine the fear a 20-year-old will feel when he is dragged to the police station? He will likely be scared enough to do whatever the cops ask of him."
Life has been kinder to him since he moved to Canada, though. "I have been living in Canada, for the last four years now. I am married to a man here and am living peacefully. I am not an activist, I am a businessman who wants to live my life peacefully. It's my private life, and nobody had any right to question my choices. I visit India at times, but prefer to stay in Canada," he said.
Hope for the future
How does he feel about India, now that the Supreme Court has struck down Section 377? "I am glad they have done away with it, but India still has a long way to go. In many countries, gay people no longer face discrimination in employment, in fact, they are recognised for their contributions to society. India is yet to reach that level," he added.
Now that the LGBTQ community is no longer threatened legally, the next step is change the mindset towards same-sex love. And this starts from the family. "My family didn't understand at first, but we are on excellent terms now. It is very sad if your family judges you. Right from the family to the police, everyone thinks that if you're gay, you are 'mentally wrong', or they think it's just about sex. But people should realise that this is not true."
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