THE UK gay Humanist charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) has expressed its dismay and outrage at the news that India’s highest court has upheld a colonial era law which criminalises gay sex.
The Supreme Court threw out a 2009 New Delhi High Court decision that ruled the law was unconstitutional and this change could see gay people jailed for up to ten years.
The PTT’s Secretary George Broadhead said:
This ruling is a terrible setback for the struggle to secure equal rights for LGBT people, not just in India, but in many of the Commonwealth countries that still enforce draconian colonial era restrictions on the rights of LGBT people. It will inevitably provide encouragement to the many African states like Nigeria and Uganda which are viciously hostile to LGBT relationships and rights.
As in these countries where religious organisations, including the Anglican Churches, strongly support anti-gay legislation, the ruling in India has been welcomed by religious groups, particularly leaders of India's Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities, who had challenged the 2009 New Delhi High Court ruling which described Section 377 as discriminatory and said gay sex between consenting adults should not be treated as a crime.
Among the supporters of the challenge was Baba Ramdev, a Hindu 'holy man' with a mass following who has fought a long legal battle to maintain the ban on gay sex. At a press conference following the judgment, Ramdev invited the gay community to his yoga ashram where he said he would 'cure them of homosexuality', which he described as 'unnatural, uncivilised, immoral, irreligious and abnormal'. He said he would do so by 'keeping them in a room with a heterosexual for a few days'.
Tanuja Thakur, a Hindu spiritual leader, said: 'When two people of same sex indulge in a physical activity, it goes against nature. And anything unnatural is criminal in nature'. He said homosexuality was happening 'because society is not doing enough spiritual practice'.
Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board welcomed the ruling. He said: 'The Supreme Court has upheld the century-old traditions of India; the court is not suppressing any citizen, instead it is understanding the beliefs and values of the large majority of the country'.
The PTT warmly endorses the statement made by G Ananthapadmanabhan of Amnesty International India who said: 'This decision is a body-blow to people's rights to equality, privacy and dignity. It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights'.
Just after the PTT issued its statement, the BBC quoted Kavita Krishnan, a Delhi women’s rights activist as saying:
The Supreme Court order has set a very bad precedent.
The Supreme Court's decision is a huge embarrassment. It is supporting patriarchal and religious forces instead of siding with constitutional reason. It is a setback to all minorities in the country.
In a modern democracy, we expect the Supreme Court to protect the rights of the marginalised and underprivileged, whether they are women, children, poor or sexual minorities.
How we live our personal lives, within the four walls of our house, should not be subjected to any moral policing or any mob rule.
We cannot accept the narrow beliefs, understandings and diktats of religious groups to dictate the laws of our country.
What if tomorrow religious groups decide that inter-caste or inter-religious marriages are against the moral values of our society, then would the court make, amend or uphold laws accordingly?