Gay rights

Not only is BJP refusing to scrap Section 377, it's back to saying gays have a 'genetic disorder'

No chance of homosexuality being decriminalised in India anytime soon.

It seemed as if Law Minister Sadananda Gowda had opened up a window of hope in the aftermath of the landmark American decision on gay marriage. On Tuesday, the Economic Times quoted Gowda as having said that the government might look to scrap Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises all "unnatural sex." Specifically, the ET report quotes Gowda saying "the mood appears to be in favour of it", with that "it" presumably referring to the scrapping of Section 377. But that small window of hope has just been shut, thanks to a denial from Gowda.

"I never said that, I was misquoted," Gowda told reporters. "The topic was on USA legalising same-sex marriage. I just said that such decisions would need wide discussions in India." He would even go on to berate the Economic Times via his Twitter account, saying the piece is a "wrong report" and asking the newspaper to take it down immediately.


 

This follows the see-saw nature of the Bharatiya Janata Party's relationship to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community over the last few years. Many in the BJP have seen the potential for goodwill that could come out of supporting the LGBT cause, or genuinely believe in it, and have been vocal about it.

Sometimes, some of those statements have even prompted hope that the government might actually take a step towards scrapping Section 377, a year-and-a-half after the Supreme Court upheld it as being constitutional. The BJP's Mumbai chief has said that it will support repealing the provision, its party spokesperson, Shaina NC, said it was for the decriminalising of homosexuality and then-Health Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that the government should protect the rights of homosexuals. Even Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh spokesperson Ram Madhav, while refusing to approve of homosexuality, said he would find it hard to consider it a crime.

But for every one of these statements, there's one from the likes of BJP supporter Baba Ramdev who insists homosexuality is a disease that he can cure, or from Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying the BJP will not support these "unnatural" acts. Louder than these words are, of course, the silence from the party in Parliament, where its majority in the Lok Sabha could see Section 377 struck down, with support in the Rajya Sabha likely to follow.

Instead of that happening, though, the party seems to be leaning in the opposite direction entirely. Although BJP leader Subramanian Swamy is known to make statements that are controversial for their own sake, his status cannot be denied and indeed, his comments are often used by the party to send certain messages.

On Tuesday, Swamy not only attempted to insist that Gowda had been misquoted, he also sought to clarify the party's stance on homosexuality, hewing closer to Rajnath Singh's opinion than Ram Madhav or Harsh Vardhan.


 

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