On Thursday, United Nations Human Rights Council is seeking to establish first UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI). This committee if established would be milestone in world’ attempt to end discrimination and violence against Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Transgender people. But the question is how is India is going to respond to this ? India is one of the few countries which criminalises consensual sex between people of the same gender.
The Supreme Court Wednesday declined to examine the plea against the validity of the section 377 of the IPC which makes homosexuality a criminal offence. Section 377 which dates back to 1860, criminalises sexual acts against the ‘order of the nature’. Rights activists have accused this law being the basis for denying human rights for sexual minorities.
The resolution to SOGI was moved by Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Chile Mexico and Uruguay.
The new resolution is continuation of attempt by some countries to end discrimination against sexual minorities. In 2011 South Africa moved a resolution on Human Rights Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and in 2014 another resolution was presented by the Latin American group. India abstained from voting on both these occasions though India is a member of the Human Rights Council.
Now the question is whether India, one of biggest democracies in the world will stand with the rest of countries in trying to end the discrimination against the sexual minorities or will go with the conservative notion stemmed from religious beliefs that treats sexual minorities as violators of ‘natural order’.
The UN resolution comes at a time when the violence against sexual minorities are under reported. The firing at night guy club in Orlando that killed 49 people was the most widely reported violence against same sex people. But reports say that there were 2115 less highlighted murders of sexual minorities between 2008- April 2016 from different parts of the world.
India is among the 73 nations of 193 UN members that criminalises same sex relations. In 2009 Delhi High Court set aside IPC 377 and decriminalised same gender sex relations. But the apex court over ruled the judgement and reinstated the provisions of criminalising the same gender sex. Now it is up to the Parliament to take a decision whether to decriminalise same gender sex or continue with the archaic law.
India’s response towards international community’s effort to end the discrimination against the sexual minorities have been varying. In 2010 India voted in favour of a resolution at the General Assembly of the United Nations which supported the view that extra judicial killing of a person because of his sexual orientation is a crime. But in 2015 India opposed extending benefits given to heterosexual couples to same same sex partners among the UN employees.
In India the ruling BJP does not favour scrapping section 377 of the IPC. Even among the oppositions there are leaders who still consider same sex a criminal activity. This makes it difficult for those who want to scrap the archaic law to move a bill in the parliament.
The position India takes in UN on Thursday will definitely will say something about government’s view on article 377.