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Indian Parliament`intolerance’ kills even debate on gay sex law

New Delhi

Reflecting the dominance of conservative opinion in Parliament, a private member’s bill seeking to decriminalize gay relationships was defeated at the moment of introduction itself with BJP MPs -despite senior leaders like Arun Jaitley and Ram Madhav having publically supported the move -leading the opposition to the proposed legislation.The bill’s rejection by a vote of 71-24 marks a rare case where a private mem ber’s legislation will not be even discussed. Moved by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, the bill was opposed by BJP MPs with Godda MP Nishikant Dubey strongly critcising its provisions. The bill, however, found the support of TMC and BJD MPs. Some Congress MPs such as Sushmita Deb and Ra jiv Satav also backed it though some other party MPs were seen hastily leaving the chamber just ahead of the vote.

Tharoor’s move to seek amendment in section 377 of IPC -upheld by SC -saw Dubey quoting the apex court that had held same sex relationships a crime under section 377 even when they were consensual in nature.The court’s decision to overturn a Delhi HC order decrimnalizing such relationships came as a blow to the LGBT community that is often subject to harassment.

Dubey said he was opposing the bill not because of any religion, `vedas’ or `puranas’ but based on SC ruling. How ever, Tharoor countered the argument, saying the BJP MP was relying on a partial reading of the verdict and pointed out that the SC had clearly said changing the statute was the domain of the legislature.

Some MPs who supported the bill like BJD’s Tathagatha Satpathy said it was disappointing that the bill was not even discussed. No private member’s bill has been passed in recent years but the issues are often subject of lively discussion in Parliament. The SC, in December 2013, had ruled that the 150-year-old Section 377, criminalizing gay sex, “does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality“. The judgement dealt a blow to lakhs of gays who sought the safety of the 2009 Delhi HC ruling that had called 377 `unconstitutional’. Several social and religious organisations had moved SC on the ground that gay sex is against the cultural and religious values.

Tharoor argued that he is only proposing an amendment in the law, not to delete it. As the bill was rejected through division of votes, Tharoor tweeted that he would make another attempt to introduce the bill. The Congress MP said he was surprised to see such intolerance, adding `we shall overcome’. Tharoor said the introduction of bill could not rally any support as it came up very late.

Speaking after the bill was rejected Rajesh Umadevi, director with gender rights NGO Sangama, said “Today is a black Friday as Lok Sabha sent a message that rights of sexual minorities don’t matter. We will intensify our fight across the country .“

Times View:

Naveen Patnaik’s BJD and Mamata Banerjee’s TMC need to be complimented for being progressive. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the ruling party, despite finance minister Arun Jaitley’s public support for decriminalisation of homosexuality. The Modi government should realise that reforms and liberalisation isn’t only about the economy.http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31804&articlexml=House-intolerance-kills-even-debate-on-gay-sex-19122015016049

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