Friday I 6 PM I 7th August I Shakespeare and Section 377

“We Must Not Make A Scarecrow of the Law”

Section 377 as Shakespearean Comedy 


Friday, the 7th of August at 6 pm.

About the Talk

The law and ideas of justice play an essential role in much of Shakespeare’s work. His characters often refer to contemporary laws and legal institutions even as the plays raise larger questions about justice and the workings of the law. Amongst the most extensive of these discussions takes place in Measure for Measure, which concerns itself with the impossibility of reconciling the abstractions of legal dictates with human passions. In the course of the play, Shakespeare confronts us with questions relating to how the law should work with rather than against nature, as well as what it means to do an act of justice, and how one mediates adjudication with empathy.

These are particularly relevant questions in the contemporary context. As this talk will show they throw an illuminating light on the Indian judiciary’s constitutional engagement with the criminalization of homosexuality under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The Delhi High Court’s judgment in Naz Foundation v. Union of India and the Supreme Court’s verdict in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation can be read as building on the themes raised in Measure for Measure, whether it be in their varied understandings of the role of the judiciary in protecting fundamental rights, or in the quibbling around what constitutes carnal intercourse against the order of nature. The talk will read Measure for Measure as a conceptual lexicon of law and justice to further explore these contemporary debates.

About the Speaker

Danish Sheikh graduated from NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad, following which he pursued a master’s degree at the University of Michigan Law School on a Michigan Grotius Fellowship. At the Alternative Law Forum, he works on research and advocacy relating to Gender and Sexuality, Anti-Discrimination and Law and Literature.

ALF Law and Literature Reading Group

This talk is an initiative of ALF’s Law and Literature Reading Group.

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