Govt divided over law governing gays May 24, 2008Posted by nitinkarani in English, Online/New Media, Section 377, Television.
Tags: Add new tag, Section 377
At the moment, the government is divided on the issue. The Home Ministry has told the court that by treating homosexuality as a criminal offence, the government is protecting public health and morals.
But the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), which comes under the Ministry of Health, says that the law has to go.
The controversy over legalising homosexuality became the subject of a petition in court for the first time in 2001. An NGO Naz Foundation went to the Delhi High Court demanding the striking down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Under this law, homosexuality can invite punishment, even life imprisonment.
The Indian Penal Code, as we know it today, was formulated by the British way back in 1860. It was then that Section 377 was also introduced. Interestingly, the UK government repealed this law in 1967. And those fighting the law say it’s high time the Indian government followed suit. But the debate on this highly contentious issue is far from over.
While the Health Ministry says that it is necessary to decriminalise homosexuality in order to tackle HIV/AIDS, the Home Ministry has opposed it.
According to the Home Ministry affidavit, interference by public authority in the interest of public safety and protection of health and morals is permissible. It also says that there’s no such tolerance to practice of homosexuality/lesbianism in the Indian society.
The content in affidavit prompted the court to remark that homosexuality is not a health hazard. But it is affecting the Home Ministry. So, how come the government is taking such a contradictory stand? If they cannot decide, then we will.
”I think this fight is about human rights. This fight is about privacy, dignity and equality. This section is abrasive in violating the human rights of those who are of same sex defining themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” says Sumit Baudh, member of Voices Against 377.
Gay activists also say that Section 377 is presently misused by law enforcement agencies to harass people.
Thus, amid the entire furore, Thursday is the decisive day for the future of homosexuality in the country.