New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM has in its political manifesto for the 2014 general elections sought to amend the law and not criminalize same sex relations, making it the only Indian political party to take a stand for the LGBT community.
The CPM on March 19 sought to decriminalize Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and scrap the archaic law that the Supreme Court last December upheld when it ruled that consensual gay sex between adults is illegal, reports timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
Its manifesto promised to “Amend Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code so that it does not criminalize adult consensual relationships irrespective of sexual orientation.”
India’s national elections for 543 seats in the lower house of parliament will begin April 7 and continue on nine separate dates until May 12 with results expected to be announced May 16. The elections are the world’s largest with 814 million eligible voters above the age of 18.
The pro gay stand by the CPM is a concrete break from other parties in the wake of the Supreme Court declaring gay sex illegal and restoring Section 377, a 1860 British colonial era law that defines homosexuality as “unnatural” and makes gay sex a criminal offense punishable by up to life imprisonment. In 2009 Delhi’s high court had overturned the law but the Supreme Court reversed it past December.
Unfortunately, the CPM is not a major player in the national elections with just 16 seats in the outgoing lower house of parliament. The CPM’s best performance was in the 2004 election when it won 44 seats.
The elections will primarily be fought between the incumbent Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian peoples party), currently the main opposition party that media reports will in all likelihood form the next federal government.
The BJP had opposed any move to nullify the Supreme Court’s order re-criminalizing consensual sex among consenting same sex adults, dealing a huge setback to any move to scrap or dilute Section 377. Party chief Rajnath Singh went to the extent of saying, “Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural.”
Nonetheless, the BJP ran an electoral ad asking for votes on the popular gay social media dating website grindr. The ad which appears at the bottom of the page has both the party’ lotus symbol and their prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s photograph displayed prominently. It exhorts voters to vote BJP.
“This exposes the party’s hypocrisy,” India’s pioneering gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi told dnaindia.com. “So you want our votes and not us. I’m glad this has happened. The country will finally know the true face of falsehood of the party.”
By contrast Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, has already spoken of an “inclusive and tolerant” Indian culture while supporting gay rights. However, she has fallen short of making it an electoral issue.
Source: dnaindia.com; timesofindia.indiatimes.com