Last edited: December 18, 2004

Mumbai Gays Against Centre’s Stance

Mid-Day, September 15, 2003

By: Shibu Thomas

The Central Government’s stand supporting Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes homosexuality a criminal offence has come in for vociferous criticism from the lesbian and gay community in the city. They feel the government’s open support may lead to increasing harassment and victimisation of the community.

“The government’s stand makes gay men vulnerable to extortion, abuse and violence,” said gay activist Ashok Row Kavi at a meeting in Santacruz that was convened to evolve a counter to the government’s stand.

According to Section 377, whoever voluntarily has sex against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal will be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years.

On September 8, in response to a public interest litigation filed by Naz Foundation, the centre told the Delhi High Court that homosexuality cannot be legalised in India as society disapproves of such behaviour.

The government said “deletion of the said section can well open the flood gates of delinquent behaviour and be construed as providing unbridled licence for the same”.

Tejal, a member of LABIA (Lesbian And Bisexual Women in Action), is concerned about the government affidavit bringing lesbian women under the purview of the Act.

“It is scary, and translates into the government sending out a message that it will prosecute homosexual men and women. The government has effectively said that its own notions of culture override human rights,” said Tejal.

R Sridhar, a filmmaker who was present at the meeting, believes that “society’s non-acceptance” argument is not valid. “Society has never accepted widow remarriage, ban on sati and child marriage,” argued Sridhar. His immediate concerns, however, are whether the government can prosecute two gay men who are living together.

Ernest Noronha, who works with gay organisation Humsafar, believes the law can come in the way of HIV prevention campaigns. “What will stop the police from now booking outreach workers in the area of HIV/AIDS intervention?” he asked. Row Kavi said Humsafar might intervene in the case, since the government has questioned Naz’s locus standi (the right of a party to appear and be heard before a court).

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