“Criminalizing the gay community by misusing Section 377 of the IPC is not acceptable to the BJP,” said Ashish Shelar, Mumbai chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian peoples party) led federal government that came to power May 26.
“Decriminalizing consensual sex between two adults is a pressing need” he said while speaking at a special Aug 15 Independence Day “Acceptance Meet” organized by the pro-LGBT Humsafar Trust and other organizations for members of the community and their parents in Mumbai, according to dnaindia.com.
This is a radical departure from his BJP’s earlier unsupportive stand for the LGBT community when its minister told parliament recently that his government has no plans to amend Section 377 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) criminalizing same-sex relations.
Section 377 is the British colonial-era law that describes same-sex relations as “unnatural” and punishable with life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court past December upheld the validity of Section 377 reversing the 2009 Delhi’s high court ruling that decriminalized it and gave the gay community broad protections and rights, saying that only Parliament had the right to amend the law.
Shelar promised to raise the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the law affects at least 40 million people in India. “Parliament cannot ignore something which affects such a large number of people,” he said.
However lawyer activist YP Singh challenged Shelar saying political parties such as the BJP “won’t push for doing something because they’re more worried about their conservative vote bank.”
Addressing the popular notion that the law leaves the LGBT community open to blackmail, harassment and persecution by authorities as well as criminals, Singh suggested that LGBT community members aggressively file follow-up complaints of extortion if the police try to harass them with decoys and trap them.
Ashok Row Kavi of the Humsafar Trust underlined how the re-criminalization of same-sex relation by the Supreme Court had only increased instances of police persecution and extortion using the law to harass gay people and arbitrarily deciding on what constitutes “indecency.”
Mumbai remains the undisputed gay capital of India with its history of gay activism, an increasingly attractive International Film Gay film festival, a hip party scene and the center of gay business from books to merchandise stores, according to pink-pages.co.in.