Vanquishing Section 377: the Road to Justice by an Empowered Queer India

12:00 - 1:00 p.m.
Morgan Courtroom, Austin Hall

Please join the Human Rights Program for a talk focusing on revealing the uniquely participatory, complex 25-year journey of litigation and community empowerment that led to the decriminalization of same-sex sex by the Indian Supreme Court in September 2018. The journey traversed a variety of issues including public health, marginalization and representation, legal and sexuality literacy, privilege and the questioning of power structures, the vagaries of fortune in attaining justice, and reimagining the substance and meaning of fundamental rights.

Vivek Divan is a lawyer and queer activist whose work over the last two decades has focused on the intersections of law, health and sexuality. He had the good fortune of being at the heart of the constitutional challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, having been part of the brains trust that litigated the Naz Foundation case in 2001, while managing the pioneering Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit. He led much of the extensive community engagement and strategizing over two decades that informed key aspects of court and advocacy strategy and contributed to victory in 2018. His work has also included law and policy engagement on areas as diverse as sex worker rights, HIV, tuberculosis, and intellectual property and access to medicines. At Lawyers Collective he was also part of the core team that drafted India’s HIV Act (the country’s first anti-discrimination legislation).  Vivek worked at UNDP from 2009-14 where he supported formation and convening of the Global Commission on HIV & the Law ( and served on its Secretariat and Technical Advisory Group. As Senior Advisor at the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam he taught in the Masters in Public Health (ICHD) programme in 2008-09. He was an International Advisory Board member of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission from 2000-2012. Vivek graduated in law from National Law School of India University, Bangalore and received his LL.M. from Cornell University.