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Could this be the death knell of India’s anti-sodomy laws?

Could this be the death knell of India’s anti-sodomy laws?

Indian MP Shashi Tharoor

High profile Indian politician Dr Shashi Tharoor has introduced an anti-discrimination bill that could spell the end of Section 377 of India’s Penal Code.

Section 377 prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. It was reinstated in 2013 after four years of decriminalization. Activists and lawmakers have tried for years to have the decision overturned.

When Tharoor introduced the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2016 last week it filled many with hope minorities will finally be protected in India.

The objective of the bill is ‘to ensure equality to every citizen of the country by providing protection against all forms of social discrimination’.

‘Cases of discrimination continue to be witnessed in all spheres of social, economic and political life,’ Tharoor wrote in the bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons.

‘They are frequently directed against dalits, muslims, women, persons of different sexual orientations ‘hijras’ persons with disabilities, persons from North-Eastern States unmarried couples and non-vegetarians, among others.

‘It must be recognized that membership of a group should never adversely affect a citizen’s life, and that there is a need to protect all groups and citizens from discrimination in the interests of national unity and diversity.’

Tharoor cowrote the legislation with Oxford Law Professor Tarunabh Khaitan and introduced it in his electorate of Lok Sabha.

‘The Bill is an effort to respond, among other events, to Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide, which has put the need for an anti-discrimination legislation back on the political agenda,’ Khaitan told Live Law.

‘India is amongst the few regimes with a constitutional commitment to a liberal democracy that nevertheless lack a comprehensive, multi-ground, anti-discrimination legislation.’

Introduced comprehensive antidiscrimination Bill in Parliament, as advised by @tarunkhaitan (Oxford Law Professor) https://t.co/Z2F2Q16fmr

— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) March 15, 2017

377 has got to go

Tharoor has long fought to overturn the arhaic 377 law which was a legacy of the British colonial rule.

When the Supreme Court refused to overturn the law it reasoned that it was mainly in place to protect people from rape and child abuse, not covered by other laws.

But a report released by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) shows that 377 is used to harass LGBTI people.

377 was used to discriminate against and intimidate LGBTI people and for extortion and blackmail.

‘Criminalization, police violence, and the prejudiced attitudes of officials in the courts’ system have a profoundly detrimental impact on the ability and willingness of queer persons to resort to legal avenues to obtain justice,’ said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director.

‘The systemic discrimination and violence faced by queer persons in India, and the challenges they face accessing justice, are clearly contrary to India’s international human rights law obligations and the Indian Constitution.’