You can blame the Congress-led UPA for dragging its feet on many policies, but on the issue of Section 377, you cannot fault it for being slow off the mark.
In an uncharacteristically lightening move, even faster than the civil society groups, the central government moved the Supreme Court last week against the court’s recent verdict that struck down an earlier Delhi high court judgment, effectively criminalising homosexuality and saying that it was up to Parliament to amend Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
During the hearing of the plea in the Supreme Court, the central government had backed the Delhi high court order and said that the contentious legislation was a throwback to British colonialism.
While the UPA must be congratulated for moving with such alacrity, it is pretty evident that the main reason for such a move is the 2014 general elections. The BJP, on the other hand, has stuck to its stand and used India’s ‘moral fabric’ argument to support the SC.
There is a strong counter-argument to this and it was delivered by author Vikram Seth at NDTV’s Greatest Global Living Indians awards function. Mr Seth succinctly put what most have not been able to articulate on Section 377 on the need to safeguard personal choices and liberty. In the presence of President Pranab Mukherjee and leaders from the Congress and the BJP, he said: “…Intolerance is violence. And accepted intolerance is violence with the acquiescence of the society”.
And then beautifully added to the larger contours of the Section 377 debate: “Basically, there is no point wrapping yourself up in a flag when you don’t realise that the flag has more than one component.
There are different colours in it, they mean different things and in the heart of it is the wheel ... the wheel of justice, the cycle of life, the wheel of law. We cannot have intolerance within the family... ... We cannot have intolerance within the family... and we certainly cannot have intolerance in the country as a whole.” Hopefully, senior BJP leaders were listening.