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Section 377 criminalising ‘unnatural sex’ may be scrapped, says Sadananda Gowda

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D-V-Sadananda-Gowda

By NewsGram Staff Writer

After the historic US verdict legalising same sex marriage received positive reception on social media, India may be planning to move along similar lines.

Union Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda has indicated that India could move towards abolishing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises ‘unnatural sex’,  including gay liaisons.

Legalisation of gay marriages could also be considered, Gowda said.

“The mood appears to be in favour of it. But it can be done only after widespread consultations and taking all views into account”, added the minister.

For a politician hailing from Puttur in Dakshina Kannada district, the conservative part of the Mangaluru Lok Sabha constituency, Gowda has taken a radical stance.

The coastal belt is known as a stronghold of the Sangh Parivar, and has strong, and negative views on homosexuality.

Irrespective of the views of his patrons,  Gowda contends that a legislation on the rights of transgenders could provide a model for the Indian gay community.

To emphasize the possibility, Gowda pointed out that after several years of delay, a private member’s Bill on the rights of transgenders, moved in the Rajya Sabha by Tiruchi Siva of DMK, had received overwhelming response.

“That Bill has been passed by the Rajya Sabha (in April) and everyone supported it. If that Bill is passed by the Lok Sabha and becomes an Act, Section 377 will become irrelevant,” Gowda said.

However, Gowda’s remarks on the fallout of the legislation on transgenders were somewhat away from reality.

“My bill was just limited to the educational, economic, employment and health rights of transgenders”, Tiruchi Siva of DMK told ET.

The minister added that the bill did not talk about Section 377 or anything other than the rights of transgenders.

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UN Expert Vitit Muntarbhorn Warns Against LGBTQ Rights Violations

"More than 70 countries around the world today still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some of them the death penalty may be applied," believes Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN' first independent expert on the rights of LGBT

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A protester to support all students sign from National Center for transgender equality, Source : Wikimedia

United Nations, October 28, 2017 : Immediate action is needed to stop human rights violations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, a UN human rights expert has said.

“It is unconscionable that people with an actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression different from a particular social norm are targeted for violence and discrimination in many parts of the world,” said Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN’ first independent expert on the rights of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

“LGBT people are suffering a crucible of egregious violations, including killings, rape, mutilation, torture, arbitrary detention, abduction, harassment, physical and mental assaults.

“They are subjected to lashings and forced surgical interventions, bullying from a young age, incitement to hatred and pressures leading to suicide,” he told the UN General Assembly on Friday.

“More than 70 countries around the world today still criminalise same-sex relations, and in some of them the death penalty may be applied,” Xinhua quoted Muntarbhorn as saying.

Even where there is no law criminalising consensual same-sex relations, laws on public decency, public order and social peace are used to incriminate people under the umbrella of sexual orientation, gender identity and related gender expression, he noted.

Muntarbhorn who is from Thailand said all laws criminalising same-sex relationships should be removed from the statute books, and no other legal measures should be used to target sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression for the purpose of consolidating power and suppressing dissent.

It was also imperative to remove the death penalty for all cases related to the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity and related gender expression, he stressed.

ALSO READ Women-Only Murray Edwards College of Cambridge University to Accept Transgender Students

“There is a need for effective anti-discrimination measures covering both the public and private spheres. Not only formal but substantive, not only de jure but also de facto, in addition to the building of a community open to understanding and respecting sexual and gender diversity,” said the expert.

To be effective, anti-discrimination frameworks should provide for effective measures to investigate alleged violations, redress for victims and accountability for alleged perpetrators, he said.

Muntarbhorn also expressed concern that human rights defenders were being increasingly targeted for their work in raising issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. (IANS)

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Landmark Judgement: Right to Privacy Becomes Fundamental Right of India, Rules Supreme Court

Supreme Court today ruled, the right to privacy "is protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty."

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Supreme Court rules Right to privacy a fundamental right
The Supreme Court of India. Wikimedia
  • Right to privacy was made a fundamental right for citizens of India
  • The decision came out unanimously by the bench of 9 judges including Chief Justice JS Khehar
  • Lawyer Prashant Bhushan noted ‘all fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions’

New Delhi, August 24, 2017: In another landmark verdict by the Supreme Court, Right to privacy was made a fundamental right for citizens of India. Supreme Court today ruled: The right to privacy “is protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty.”

A crowd of petitioners previously challenged the government’s Aadhaar biometric project, which has taped the iris scans and fingerprints of more than half a population.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan noted ‘all fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions.’ He further cautioned by saying that ‘whether Aadhaar can be seen as a reasonable restriction has yet to be decided’.

The decision came out unanimously by the bench of 9 judges including Chief Justice JS Khehar. Right to privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen, the judges said, overruling two previous Supreme Court judgments.

It is a watershed moment, remarked Sajan Poovayya, a petitioner in the case. “Whatever the state decides will be checked and tested on that basis. The powers of the state are curtailed to some extent,” he told NDTV.
Background: Government vs. Petitioners 
The government argued in the past that ‘right to privacy’ is not explicitly embodied in the Constitution as the founding fathers expelled the idea of inclusion of privacy as a fundamental liberty.
However, petitioners contended that in technologically dynamic society,  the identification of privacy as a fundamental freedom is an essential step against interference into personal space by the government and private players.

Adhar was criticised as a design which infringes privacy. India lacking the law on privacy aggravated the problem in the past.

Contentious argument: Why protect Adhaar? 

India is swiftly emerging as a digital market. Being a nation of billion mobile users, it needs laws on privacy and data protection as well.

Chances of fraudulence,  misrepresentation, ID theft are increasingly becoming the real concerns.

With the growing number of transactions done over the internet, information shared on such digital platforms become imperiled to misuse and theft.

Right to privacy bearing on Section 377

In 2013, the apex Court had supported Section 377 of the IPC, an iron fisted law that criminalizes the intimate relations “against the law of nature.” Today, the court’s decree on Right to Privacy also brought the protection of physical intimacies.

Explaining the concept of privacy, Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the nine-judge bench that pronounced the verdict, said in his judgment: “Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation… Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone.”


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Rainbow Designs: Using Architecture to Sensitize People for the Rights of LGBT Community

The sensitisation hub, shaped like a pizza slice, seeks to make the point that the environment can "remedy the shortcomings" of India's LGBT community

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The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. wikimedia
  • 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitization centre for the community takes gender-tropes head on
  • Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitization centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year
  • Cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres

Kolkata, July 21, 2017: It’s shaped like a pizza slice and seeks to make the point that the environment can “remedy the shortcomings” of India’s LGBT community. Taking gender tropes head-on, 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitisation centre for the community, his undergraduate architectural thesis, makes it a dissertation with a difference.

Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitisation centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year.

“The idea came to me when a friend from Lucknow committed suicide and that’s when I realised how I could use architecture to benefit the community,” Shukla, who identifies himself as a bisexual, told IANS.

The Lady Ga Ga fan says the hub traverses the gray areas and eschews the binary perspective in architectural realms in the sense that it brings about a balance between masculine and feminine elements.

“In the last five years that I have studied architecture, I have been involved in theatre and making short films. So when I had to submit my thesis, I wanted to do something that had not been done by universities in India before,” Shukla explained.

Shukla, who has just concluded his B.Arch from Jadavpur University, says cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres.

Set in the satellite township of Rajarhat in northeastern fringes of Kolkata, the blueprint of the pizza-slice shaped, slightly dented triangular hub includes queer museum spaces, healthcare and housing plans amid a landscape replete with a “healthy mix of sharp angular edges as well as soft undulating curves”.

To shape his vision and to be fair to the community’s needs, Shukla conducted a survey of as many as 250 respondents from the LGBT community (15-25 year olds) spanning 24 states.

“I asked them if they would like such a centre in their city and I also asked them what functions they would like. Based on their feedback, I started my design,” said Shukla, for whom Danish architect Bjarke Bundgaard Ingels and India’s Charles Correa are inspirations.

A majority of respondents — when queried on how effective queer museums can be in educating society — backed the idea of queer libraries and museums in helping society draw inspiration from the past. Similarly, there was a thumping “yes” on the presence of judicial services and trauma cells for assisting the community in rehabilitative measures.

“What I wanted to do was to use the stereotypical notions of masculine and feminine and show the world the concept of a third gender. Nothing in the world is binary; there is a spectrum of gray. I tried to use the male form, the female form and then create a hybrid form. So my design has all the three mixed together to show that society is supposed to live like this,” he elaborated.

Some of the built spaces that were analysed by Shukla as case studies are the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Welfare Centre for Children and Teenagers in Paris, the Proyecto Hombre in Madrid and the BE Friendly Space in Hanoi.

ALSO READHow did Rainbow Flag attain the Prestige of representing the LGBT Community?

Three main aspects — awareness, housing and healthcare — underpin the design elements of Shukla’s version. “In the awareness aspect, which encompasses queer museums and libraries, people can go and learn about the community. This gives will inform people that India has had a long tryst with homosexuality and debunk myths that it is a Western concept,” he said.

The housing facility provides shelter to the homeless and estranged members of the community,” added Shukla.

Gender activist Pawan Dhall felt a sensitisation hub was a great idea.

“I can just say that the idea is excellent. But I would be sceptical about housing plans. I’m not much in favour of people living in exclusive domains, unless it’s for people with special needs. Or because of old age and there is a need for institutionalised caregiving. Otherwise, a sensitisation hub idea is great. It would be even better if there are some elements of intersections with other social issues at the hub,” Dhall told IANS.

According to Gita Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Architects, West Bengal Chapter, the design indicates “sensitive handling of spaces that respects privacy while allowing freedom”.

However, activist Meenakshi Sanyal, questioned how a physical hub would function given the dichotomy in the legal perception (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) about the community in India.

“In 2009, the Delhi High Court had decriminalized homosexuality. That time a lot of closet LGBT members had come out. When the Supreme Court had set aside that verdict in 2013, many became invisible again. I am not saying the hub is not a good idea but there is a need to focus on the accessibility of a physical hub.

“In that sense, digital fora are more accessible. Also, with the Supreme Court recognising the rights of transgender people, there is a gap in the community… the ‘T’ from LGBT is removed… so we have to factor in all these aspects,” Sanyal, who runs LGBT community support group Sappho for Equality, told IANS. (IANS)


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.