Mumbai Gays Against Centre’s Stance
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,”
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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