Modiji, decriminalise gay sex to make India tolerant

Written by: Maitreyee Boruah
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It was not surprising to see how our parliamentarians reacted when Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor attempted to introduce a private member's bill that sought to decriminalise gay sex, in the Lok Sabha on Friday, Dec 18.

Our netas were heard jeering and cracking sexually explicit jokes. The fate of Thaoor's brave attempt was already sealed because of the puritanical House, cutting across all party lines. It was defeated by 71-24 votes.

Shashi Tharoor speaking on the bill at Lok Sabha

Our lawmakers openly expressed their disinterest to protect the rights of sexual minorities who have been facing harassment and persecution on account of the outdated and archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The double standard displayed by our lawmakers is hard to digest. It's no big deal for politicians to get caught watching porn during assembly sessions. But when it comes to the rights of consenting adults in their bedrooms, our netas turn sanskari.

The blatant rejection of the bill to decriminalise gay sex has angered the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and their supporters who are planning a series of protests across the country against Section 377.

In a first of the series of protest hosted in Town Hall, Bengaluru on Saturday (December 19), activists openly labelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government as intolerant. Even Tharoor called his Lok Sabha colleagues intolerant when he tweeted "surprising to see such intolerance".

Protest by Bengaluru activists against the rejection of bill to decriminalise gay sex at Town Hall

Akkai Padmashali, an LGBT activist, who spearheaded the Bengaluru protest, said, "The parliamentarians have rejected the bill without even a discussion. This clearly shows their intolerance. We are living in an intolerant country where people are abused based on their sexual orientation. Our leaders are transphobic and homophobic. This is unfortunate."

"Politicians cite cultural morality to disrespect gender identity and sexual orientation. Various groups from across the country has decided to continue with protests and rallies till justice is not delivered to us," she added.

This protest has been hosted by the Coalition for Sex Workers and Sexuality Minority Rights (CSMR). "We are planning to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee to raise our demands to repeal the draconian Section 377," Akkai said.

Further, sending a warning to the Modi government, Arvind Narayan, lawyer and activist working for LGBT rights, said, "Why is Modi silent over the rights of millions of LGBT people in India? His government's popular slogan "Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas" does not include LGBT community. It is not an inclusive government at all."

It was a watershed moment for the LGBT community in the country, when the Delhi High Court legalised gay sex among consenting adults in 2009. The court held that the law making it a criminal offence violates right of privacy, personal liberty and equality. The judgment was hailed by members of sexual minorities and their supporters.

Section 377 is a British pre-colonial era law that bans carnal intercourse.

Activists working for the rights of sexual minorities observe that the judgment brought positive changes in the lives of the community as fear of being criminals no longer existed.

"Society too expressed its willingness to welcome us as fellow citizens with equal rights," said Sanjay Bhowmick (name changed), who works with an IT firm in Bengaluru.

However, the euphoria did not exist long as the Supreme Court struck down the historic Delhi HC verdict in 2013.

Protest by Bengaluru activists against the rejection of bill to decriminalise gay sex at Town Hall

It came as a huge blow to gay rights in the country. The SC also noted that the onus is on Parliament to look into the desirability of deleting Section 377 of IPC.

Section 377 is a British pre-colonial era law that bans carnal intercourse against the order of nature. Conviction carries a fine and a maximum10-year jail sentence.

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