With Harsh Vardhan’s Support For Gay Rights, Did The BJP Just Take A Stand In Favour Of LGBTQIA?

Posted on July 17, 2014 in Society

By Anshul Tewari:

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As the news goes, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday batted for “human rights” of gays and said it was the government’s job to protect their rights.

“Everybody, including gays, has human rights. It is the job of the government to protect their rights,” he said on the sidelines of an event. He, however, declined to make further comments when asked to explain his position as his party, BJP, had supported the Supreme Court judgment which had upheld the validity of Section 377 of IPC, criminalising “unnatural” sex.

BJP, which was in opposition when the Supreme Court judgement came last year, had said it was for the government to decide the next course of action over the matter, and the party would take a position depending on the official move. The SC is at present hearing a curative petition on the matter.

The previous party president and senior leader Rajnath Singh had termed gay sex “unnatural”. Previously, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had taken a more liberal position, saying that he agreed more with the verdict delivered by the Delhi High Court, which decriminalized gay sex.

As it stands, sexual minorities in India remain one of the most discriminated, and the Government has failed to recognize their rights as basic human rights. With very little understanding of a person’s personal choice, the debate around gay rights has often been connected to and related with the Indian cultural values and our stereotypical perceptions of how a relationship should look like, and has been termed as “unnatural”.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes “unnatural sex”, including consenting sex between two adults of the same sex, and can allot a jail time of 10 years to a life time for people charged with this offence. [More about Section 377]

Beyond the jail time, Section 377 has serious implications on the rights of any individual.

As YKA writer Rovel Sequeira pointed out, “In the same context of abuse of the law, one of the arguments of the plaintiffs while drafting a plea for the review of the Supreme Court’s judgment was that, since the Delhi High Court’s judgment reading down Section 377 in 2009, a number of individuals had come out to their families and to society as LGBTQ, perceiving a possibly more favourable environment for tolerance, if not acceptance. The Supreme Court’s judgement places these individuals in a particularly dangerous position, rebranding them as criminals after they have made themselves visible, thereby making them easy targets for emotional and physical abuse and discrimination. Tragically, a month after the judgment, this is exactly what has happened. In Gujarat, a man who had participated in the Gujarat gay pride  march quite openly was later identified by two cops posted on security duty during the march and later and was brutally raped by them. (Or rather, he was sexually assaulted, since rape laws in India still don’t consider men as possible victims of rape). The case bears sinister resemblance to the story that plays out in Onir’s National Award-winning film- I Am– where a gay man living in pre-Delhi High Court Judgment times is hustled, extorted, and sexually assaulted by a policeman even before he has violated Section 377. These instances should make it quite clear, that the queer community in India is perpetually vulnerable to the abuse of this law by the police.”

While Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s statement could mean a lot for gay rights in the country, and prove that no issue is small or not a priority, it is highly unlikely that the Bharatiya Janta Party will take a formal stand in favour of gay rights. However, what is extremely important is understanding what the Prime Minister of the country feels about the rights of gay people. Why not ask him for his clear stand?

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