Clash over gay rights in Supreme Court set to snowball
Using fresh arguments that range from imperiling India's defence to making its people delusional, 14 new organisations have joined the final legal battle against the decriminalisation of homosexuality, reports Samar Halarnkar.delhi Updated: Feb 20, 2010 21:29 IST
Using fresh arguments that range from imperiling India's defence to making its people delusional, 14 new organisations have joined the final legal battle against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
On Saturday, the number of petitioners in the Supreme Court - challenging the July 2009 decision of the Delhi High Court to strike down an anti-sodomy law - stood at 16 from the original two.
Two Christian church coalitions, three Muslim NGOs, two Hindu astrologers, a disciple of yoga guru Baba Ramdev, an NGO run by a former Delhi police officer, and an environmentalist, will be among those in the Supreme Court when it hears an appeal next month against the overturning of the Indian Penal Code' section 377.
Only one person, film director and Rajya Sabha MP Shyam Benegal, has quietly joined the original petitioner, Delhi NGO Naz Foundation, in support of gay rights in the Supreme Court.
With the government saying it will not oppose the Delhi High Court judgement, which experts consider legally strong, the new opponents are readying a range of fresh arguments:
· "Medical opinion" that only the vagina has the muscles required for sex, not the anus (Utkal Christian Foundation, Cuttack)
· Expanding the constitutional right to non-discrimination to include sexual orientation could lead to demands for job reservations (Apostolic Churches Alliance, Thiruvananthapuram)
· Indian cultural morality maybe ready for homosexuality in "50 or 100 years", not today (Raza Academy, Mumbai)
Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party, Prof Bhim Singh, said in his petition that the Delhi High Court ruling would be "a disaster for the Indian defence forces and the security of the country… in deserted areas".
"Seedlings of homosexuality developed among the (European and US) soldiers during the first and the second world war when they had to stay back in the forests and the hills for years without having any access to meet their sexual desires," said Singh, whose party otherwise fights for the reorganisation of J&K.
"My challenge of the (Delhi) high court judgement is that it should not have relied on foreign judgements," said Mushtaq Ahmed, counsel for Mumbai's Raza Academy, a 32-year-old Islamic advocacy group. "We can't impose a foreign cultural morality today."
From Cuttack, B D Das, counsel for the Utkal Christian Foundation, a coalition of Orissa churches, said the decriminalisation of homosexuality had already led gay couples to request church marriages.
"Of course we have not given permission," said Das, referring to homosexuality as a "biblical sin".
"Earlier, it (gay marriage) was criminal, so they would not dare to ask."
Recognising these widespread sensitivities, normally vocal gay, lesbian and transgender activists are staying under the radar. They will stick to the high court's stress on constitutional rights of an individual over public morality and not expand arguments to subjects like marriage and employment.
"Our energies are focused on safeguarding the decision in the Supreme Court," said Gautam Bhan, spokesperson of "Voices against 377", a coalition of gay rights organisations.
The old arguments, made by former right-wing Member of Parliament B.P. Singhal and an NGO called the Joint Action Council, Kannur (in Kerala), have been reformulated as well. These focus on the religious opposition to homosexuality, threat to "public morality" and what opponents argue is its "unnatural" nature.
"(The) High Court decision will protect consensual unnatural sexual acts even when they are obtained by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, causing fear, intoxication or due to unsoundness of mind," argued S K Gupta, a disciple of yoga guru Ramdev, and representative of Delhi's Patanjali Yogpeeth.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), run by former police officer Amod Kanth, said the high court had not considered adoption of children by homosexual couples and the concept of family and parenthood.
"The judgement will cause 'value disorientation' and torment children," said DCPCR secretary R C Gupta, "leading to identity crisis, social physical and psychological maladaptation in society."
"It is an established medical theory that AIDS spread in human beings through monkeys in African countries. Though not established, there are certain theories that state that unnatural sex with animals can be one of the causes.
"It is submitted that unnatural acts always come with curse from nature, as AIDS in the present form and therefore it deserves to be curbed with strong hands (sic)."
Apostolic Churches Alliance
All India Muslim Personal Law Board
S K Gupta, Patanjali Yogpeeth
B Krishna Bhat, environmentalist
Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights
Utkal Christian Council
Krantikari Manuvadi Morcha Party
Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam
Suresh Kumar, Mukesh Kumar Koushal, astrologers
(does not include all petitioners)
Shyam Benegal, film director