Gays are no longer criminals. That is undoubtedly the most important step in this long struggle, the implications are actually much wider. As the landmark judgment by the Delhi High Court struck down the provision of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults in private, pronouncing that it violated the fundamental right of life and liberty and the right to equality as guaranteed in the Constitution last week, there were mixed reactions from one and all. For the gay community and its supporters, it was a long awaited decision and was welcomed with much jubilation. Amidst the fanfare, what came to the fore are the emerging socio-economic paradigms of a new India.
As activist Ashok Row Kavi shares, “It spells all types of freedoms. The consequences will be extremely far reaching. It will definitely reduce instances of blackmail, violence and sexual abuse for the community and also benefit them in economic and legal ways.” He adds, the entire gambit of insurance, Provident Fund nominations, inheritance laws will also change as will discrimination at the workplace.
However, Pawan Duggal, Advocate, Delhi High Court, points out, “While it is a first step in the right direction, it will take some time for all the nomination columns to introduce the ‘Partner’ category to the existing, ‘Wife’, ‘Husband’, ‘Son’, ‘Daughter’, ‘Brother’, ‘Sister’ nominations. It will have its teething troubles, but will creep in the system slowly, and acceptance shall come.”
In the West, ‘Pink’ money already denotes the purchasing power of the gay community and how it has traversed from being a fringe or marginalised market to a thriving industry, especially, in the US and the UK. The Pink Dollar and Pink Pound are targeted by many leading brands. Businesses, especially hotels, restaurants, shops, nightclubs and even cabs cater to homosexual customers and their specific needs. Worldwide, Pink money is valued in billions across a variety of sectors.
India too is seeing a far greater degree of openness as the young seen to be more tolerant. Dostana, released in 2008, ran to packed houses and perhaps for the first time, the positioning and display of the gay community changed from an item number to the central character of mainstream cinema. Such moves will have wider connotations on India’s socio-economic fabric. As Dr Deepak Mehta, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, observes, “Its potential is definitely going to increase in light of the fact that it is visible in mainstream media for the first time the way it is. Synergy between activism, media’s role and exclusivity in consumer needs, obviously fuelled by the financial power of gay groups in India will bring sexuality to the arena of consumption and expression in a substantial way.”
It is still early days for Pink Rupee in India, but it is knocking at the doorstep and this judgement will go a long way in bringing the community out of the closet. As Professor Arun Kumar, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, rightly explains, “The dynamics will completely change once the legal issue is settled, and we will find middle-class gays coming out of the closet. It is a commercially viable market and sooner than later manufacturers will sense that there is a segment in the market which differs in some ways, and they will not miss out on the opportunity to develop a tailor-made strategy to rake in the moolah.”
The potential of the ‘Pink Rupee’ may still be more in the future. As Parmesh Shahani, author of Gay Bombay and Editorial Director, Verve, reasons, “In India I see small niche brands venturing into the market.” Given that the community generally entails ‘the double-income-no- kids’ group, their spending power is more and so are the lifestyle options and better financial status. And here will lie the potential and challenge for companies to cash in.