Coming Out Day: From Tharoor to Ramdev, Indians who have condemned, supported sec 377
A roundup of some prominent Indian personalities who have, through the years, supported and condemned the 2013 SC ruling on Section 377.Updated: Oct 11, 2017 16:13 IST
India remains divided on the issue of criminalisation of homosexuality as the world observes National Coming Out Day (NCOD) on Wednesday.
Founded in the United States in 1988, NCOD is an annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) awareness day observed in October to promote gay rights.
The Supreme Court in December 2013 struck down a landmark ruling by the Delhi high court that found Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” infringed the fundamental rights of Indians. In February 2016, the top court agreed to re-examine the colonial-era law and referred the matter to a five-judge bench.
Here are some prominent Indian personalities who have condemned or supported the top court’s ruling.
People against the ruling:
Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor has been an open advocate of LGBTQ rights. His bill seeking to amend Section 377 has been twice defeated in the Lok Sabha. Tharoor’s bill aims to decriminalise sexual intercourse in private between consenting adults, irrespective of their sexuality or gender.
Tharoor said it was “a low in the proud annals of Indian democracy” where “brute majority prevailed over the rights of a member” to bring the measure.
After the SC judgement, the Trinamool Congress MP tweeted that he had supported decriminalising Section 377 in 2006, along with economist Amartya Sen, writer Vikram Seth and filmmaker Shyam Benegal.
“It is surprising that independent India has not yet been able to rescind the colonial era monstrosity in the shape of Section 377, dating from 1861,” O’Brien said.
My views on gay rights in 2006. No different today | http://t.co/zQVLPV2LgI— Derek O'Brien (@quizderek) December 11, 2013
Biju Janata Dal leader Tathagata Satpathy said some socially relevant laws are becoming archaic and also “need a re-look and probably they need repealing also”.
“I would give an example of something like Section 377, the law relating to a small section of society. But it has a relevance to a particular kind of people who are human beings, who have feelings like us, but their sexual needs are different from a lot of people we know,” Satpathy said in August 2015.
In November 2015, Arun Jaitley said that the 2013 SC judgment was not correct and needed reconsideration. “When you have millions of people involved in this (gay sex) you can’t nudge them off,” Jaitley said. The finance minister said that the verdict would have been relevant about 50 years ago but “as jurisprudence world over is evolving, I think the judgment was not correct and probably, at some stage, they may have to reconsider”.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar tweeted that homosexuality had never been considered a crime in Hindu culture, right after the SC verdict.
Homosexuality has never been considered a crime in Hindu culture. In fact, Lord Ayyappa was born of Hari-Hara (Vishnu & Shiva). #Sec377— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) December 11, 2013
Supporter of the SC judgement:
Ghulam Nabi Azad
In 2011, the then health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said homosexuality was ‘unnatural sex’. He was speaking at an event on HIV and AIDS, which was attended by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.
“Now is the time to reach out to the masses if we want to bring down HIV numbers, especially among high-risk category people such as those indulging in unnatural sex, like men who have sex with men (MSM),” Azad said.
Yoga guru Ramdev offered to ‘cure homosexuals’ at his Patanjali ashram in Haridwar, hours after the top court upheld that consensual sex between adults of the same-gender was an offence.
“Two people belonging to opposite sex will be kept in one room for a few days and they will be cured of homosexuality... The practice of homosexuality is unscientific, unnatural, uncivilised, immoral, irreligious and abnormal,” he said.
Breaking his party’s silence, the then Bharatiya Janata Party president Singh said his party backed section 377 despite the widespread demand to decriminalise gay sex.
“The court does not have to legalise or illegalise such a thing. It is not against the order of nature.”
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale tweeted in March 2016 that homosexuality is not only a crime but also a socially immoral act.
Homosexuality is not a crime, but socially immoral act in our society. No need to punish, but to be treated as a psychological case.— Dattatreya Hosabale (@DattaHosabale) March 18, 2016
Gay marriage is Institutionalization of homosexuality. It should be prohibited.— Dattatreya Hosabale (@DattaHosabale) March 18, 2016
Maulana Rabe Hasani Nadvi
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said in 2010 that the Delhi high court’s 2009 verdict decriminalising homosexual acts between consenting adults as “illegal, irreligious and unnatural” for society.
Nadvi said the court decision should be “condemned” as it was “irreligious and unnatural” and added, “we would not allow the western culture to be imposed upon the innocent Indian society.”
First Published: Oct 11, 2017 16:13 IST