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Time ripe for gay rights

india Updated: Sep 16, 2006 11:26 IST
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Indian citizens from all walks of life have come forward to sign a letter written by author Vikram Seth asking for the overturning of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The section makes homosexual activity illegal and a criminal offence.

The lead signatories to the letter are social activist Swami Agnivesh, former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, former UN under secretary general Nitin Desai, freedom fighter Capt Lakshmi Sahgal and Siddharth Dube of UNAIDS. Economist Amartya Sen, while not a signatory to the letter, has issued an independent statement in support.

Eminent citizens who have endorsed Seth’s letter include Kanti Bajpai, the headmaster of Doon School, film-maker Shyam Benegal, author Amitav Ghosh, Planning Commission member Kirit Parekh and singer Shubha Mudgal.

Arguing that homosexual relations between consenting adults should not be treated as a criminal offence and that to do so violates their fundamental rights, the letter is being presented to all members of Parliament.

It is also being released through the media to the general public. "This is a letter that is not just about the law but also raises questions about social acceptance for people regardless of their sexual orientation," says Gautam Bhan, an activist with Voices Against 377, a gay advocacy group.

In response to a petition filed by the Naz Foundation asking for section 377 to be read down, the then government argued in 2004 that Indian society was not ready; that it didn't 'care' about the issue.

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