Gay rights in India, a battle to be fought long: Activists

Friday, December 10, 2010

NEW DELHI - Civil rights for homosexuals in India have a long way to go and the battle is to be fought for years, social activists and human rights campaigners said here Friday.

Even though Section 377 has been amended, the ground reality for homosexuals in the country has not changed much, Anjali Gopalan, director of the Naz Foundation, said at a panel discussion on gay rights at the American Center here.

Gays, lesbians and hijras are still beaten up. They are treated with disgust and discriminated at every point of life, Gopalan said.

Activists and advocates mentioned how a change in legal structure is not the only requirement, but it is the safeguarding of rights that will make the greater difference.

Amendment in Section 377 was like a radical change that could not happen in the last 60 years. Giving dignity and ensuring civil rights just like they exist for heterosexuals is the concern now, said Ashok Row Kavi, chair-emeritus of the Humsafar Trust in Mumbai.

Kawi has been involved in sexual health advocacy and counseling amongst the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) community in the country.

A homosexual is deprived of even the most basic right such as access to clean drinking water. They are exploited for months by people who call them abnormal or an ugly part of the society, Kawi said.

In a 150-page judgment in July 2009 last year, a two-judge Delhi High Court bench comprising Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice Murlidharan decriminalised non-heterosexual sex between consenting adults.

The bench struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a colonial legislation drafted by Lord Macaulay in 1860, that criminalised carnal intercourse against the order of nature punishable by imprisonment extending up to ten years.

Many were taken by storm when the discussion turned into an open forum and members from the audience braved to tell stories of exploitation and discrimination from their personal experience.

To be homosexual is to be totally natural. We are telling parents and the so-called society again and again that homosexuality is not a disease. We come across cases where children are given shock treatment by parents for being homosexuals, said Gopalan.

Gopalan stressed that the further advocacy of Section 377 is in the Supreme Court and she would not be able to comment on it as it is a mater of subjudice.

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