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Activists protest Indian government’s rejection of bill to decriminalize gay sex

Activists protest Indian government’s rejection of bill to decriminalize gay sex

LGBTI activists in Bengaluru, India staged a protest outside the Town Hall on Saturday to condemn the Parliament’s rejection of a bill that sought to decriminalize consensual gay sex.

The bill introduced by MP Shashi Tharoor of the opposition Congress party was defeated 71-24 on Friday in the lower house of India’s Bicameral-Parliament where the socially conservative, Hindu-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds a majority. Local media also reported that members of Tharoor’s own party walked out.

Akkai, a transgender activist, told NDTV, ‘Parliamentarians are supposed to play their roles and carry out their responsibilities. How can the Parliamentarians reject the bill, without having a dialogue? I think it’s a clear identification that you are transphobic, you are homophobic, you are conservative.’

She called on the Prime Minister to intervene in the case.

‘This day is a clear indication of intolerance. We are living in an intolerant country. We demand the honourable Prime Minister’s intervention to please function on the basis of constitutional morality and talk about social inclusivity, talk about social justice.’

Arvind Narayan, a lawyer and LGBT rights advocate, told NDTV, ‘We want to ask the PM in his motto “sabka saath, sabka vikaas” who is the sabkey saath? When you talk about inclusive government, what are you taking about? Mr Modi goes on every international stage, but at home, he is silent over the rights of millions of LGBT people in this country.’

The bill sought to amend Section 377 of the Indian penal code which bans homosexual acts as ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’

‘This is not about homosexuality as the opposition has caricatured it. It is about freedom, justice, equality of treatment and upholding the values enshrined in our Constitution,’ Tharoor was quoted as saying in the Times of India.

‘This law is from the 1860s and it has no place in the 21st century nor in people’s private lives or in their bedrooms,’ he added.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court effectively decriminalized gay sex after it ruled that prohibiting it was a violation of a person’s fundamental rights.

The ban was however reinstated in 2013 by India’s Supreme Court ruling that the responsibility for changing the 1861 law rested with lawmakers and not judges.

Several high-ranking politicians including finance minster Arun Jaitley of the BJP have recently called on the Supreme Court to revisit verdict on gay sex law.