Party spokesperson told television channel during talk show on Tuesday
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson from Mumbia Shaina NC told a television news channel on Tuesday that the ruling party supports decriminalization of homosexuality. Shaina NC who was on the NDTV talk show Left, Right, Centre told host Nidhi Razdan, “We are for decriminalizing homosexuality. That is the progressive way forward."
Homosexuality may be seen as being unnatural, but it wasn’t unacceptable, she said.
She admitted that as a party, BJP had not taken a position on homosexuality till then even though finance minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley had told the channel in February 2014 that he supported decriminalization. However, party president at the time, who is currently the home minister Rajnath Singh had said that homosexuality was unnatural and “If an all-party meeting is called, we will support Section 377."
In December 2013, the Supreme Court had ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that penalizes same sex intercourse was constitutional. The verdict struck down the progressive 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that stated that the section did not apply to consenting adults. The matter is pending a curative petition hearing in the Supreme Court.
India is home to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, which some sources peg at 10 per cent of the country’s population.
Shaina NC also appeared in a talk show for another television news channel the same evening. “We can’t have blinkers on," she said, responding to a question posed on whether the government would table a bill in the Parliament on this matter. “That’s for our party leaders to deliberate and discuss on. There can always be mixed opinions on a particular issue and especially an issue like this which is very out of the box so to say vis-a-vis our traditional culture. There is bound to be some kind of resistance. But I don’t think we can have blinkers on to make ourselves believe that there is no LGBT community in this country," she told the host of the show ‘India at 9’ in CNN-IBN.
Gautam Bhan, a member of Voices Against 377 that is one of the petitioners of the case, was also a guest in the NDTV show. He asked Shaina NC to get her party to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court supporting her claim. “If Shaina would ask the government to put this position supporting decriminalization in an affidavit at the Supreme Court, as they have asked, it would help us greatly." The BJP national executive member later tweeted her assent. “Gautam Bhan will take up your suggestion on #LGBT with our govt," she wrote.
Both debates come at a time when the BJP came under heavy criticism for a Goa minister’s remarks. Ramesh Tawadkar, minister for Sports and Youth Affairs had on Monday said that the government will open centres, along the lines of de-addicition centres to help the LGBT youth to “become normal". The remark made on the sideline of a government event to launch the Goa State Youth Policy led to a clarification by state chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar on Tuesday. “Tawadkar was ignorant of the issue," said Parsekar, adding that homosexuality was a “natural thing".
While Shaina didn’t commit to either tabling a bill in the Parliament or filing an affidavit stating the government’s position against 377, she admitted that the government did not believe “the archaic law" should be used to criminalize anyone. This was an indication of the government’s “courage of conviction" to “come up with a solution that won’t offend a section of society," she said.
“The matter has to go beyond 377," Bhan pointed out. “Comprehensive non-discrimination legislation is required in this country," he said, alluding to the violence being faced by inter-caste couples, those with gender identities and LGBT persons. “Every modern democratic society in the world protects its individual citizens against discrimination."
The Supreme Court had in April 2014 ruled that transgenders were a third gender, and asked states to address the discrimination and violence they face from society through welfare schemes.
There have been 778 cases and 587 people have been arrested under section 377 between January and October 2014, according to National Crime Records Bureau data obtained by the home ministry last month. However, critics of the section argue that it is an effective tool that legitimizes an atmosphere of violence against the queer community.