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

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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?

You must be to comment.
  1. I am straight but i support LGBT rights

    Hey friends!
    The Humsafar Trust, Mumbai started this online petition so that it can be submitted to our PM Narendra Modi to amend Section 377.
    SIGN this petition and share it in your timeline please.
    http://chn.ge/1o5Xl22
    – BY http://goo.gl/4yUf3g .

  2. Gaurav

    this is what happened to ramesh and suresh after they read all the articles on harshvardhan on YKA::

    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan is good
    Suresh :::: what
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan is bad
    Suresh :::: how
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan what are you doing!!!
    Suresh :::: what are you saying
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan are you crazy
    Suresh :::: wait a minute
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan needs to explain…
    Suresh :::: what should he explain
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan is this , Harshvardhan is that…
    Suresh :::: calm down …
    Ramesh :::: Harshvardhan, said this , Harshvardhan said that
    Suresh :::: can you please stop… I am tired of reading articles/comments which target Harshvardhan for no reason, if he says something you like , he is bad, if he says something you do not like, he is bad, looks like you just hate him ….

  3. Lakshmi

    Rape of men would be covered under 377. Not consensual afterall, legally speaking.

    Btw, good stance. I hope the BJP ditches the RSS and does decriminalise 377 ( only to the act of consenting adults in privacy), being the majority in the parliament.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
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