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HomeIndiaGovernanceSometimes homophobic, sometimes liberal: BJP's uneven Section 377 journey 

Sometimes homophobic, sometimes liberal: BJP’s uneven Section 377 journey 

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Modi govt has not taken any position on decriminalising homosexuality, leaving it to the wisdom of the top court to rule on the matter.

New Delhi: Constantly wary and visibly unsure, the BJP has mostly walked on eggshells over the issue of striking down Section 377 that criminalises ‘unnatural’ sex, but some of its top leaders have over time made statements that have been completely at odds with each other, reflecting the contradictions within the party.

On 11 December, 2013, the Supreme Court caused widespread disappointment when it set aside the Delhi High Court verdict that decriminalised homosexuality. The BJP so far had maintained a careful and silent party line on the issue. Soon after, however, then party president and now union home minister Rajnath Singh underlined a conservative position.

“We will state that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported,” Singh had said.

Also read: Homosexuality should be private matter, agrees meeting attended by top RSS, BJP leaders

He wasn’t the only BJP leader to adopt this line. Gorakhpur Lok Sabha MP Yogi Adityanath, who is now Uttar Pradesh chief minister, also held similar views.

“I welcome the Supreme Court verdict. When the bill is brought in Parliament, I will oppose it. I oppose any move to decriminalise homosexuality and endorse Ramdev’s comments,” Adityanath had said.

The party, however, did not officially endorse these views, walking the middle path instead. After the SC verdict, then leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told Parliament that the onus to change the law was on the government.

“There is no need to be so disappointed. The Supreme Court has said the government can frame a law. Call an all-party meeting, draft a proposal. Just saying it is unfortunate won’t serve any purpose,” Swaraj said in the Lok Sabha.

“We will react when we see the government’s proposal. We cannot react to the apex court judgment,” she added.

With time, even as the party continued to walk the tightrope, particularly after coming to power in 2014, more of its senior leaders began coming out in support of gay rights.

In November 2015, finance minister Arun Jaitley was vocal in his stand.

“When you have millions of people involved in this (gay sex) you can’t nudge them off,” said Jaitley, adding that the court had taken a “conservative view”.

“I am for decriminalising gay sex,” he added.

“We are for decriminalising homosexuality. That is the progressive way forward,” BJP spokesperson Shazia Ilmi told a television channel in January 2015.

Another senior union minister, Prakash Javadekar, also threw his weight behind decriminalising homosexuality.

“We should not marginalise the already marginal,” he said in early 2017.

RSS’ stand

Meanwhile, the BJP’s ideological parent — the RSS — also started displaying signs of adopting a liberal approach to decriminalising homosexuality.

“I don’t think homosexuality should be considered a criminal offence as long as it does not affect the lives of others in society,” RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale had said in March 2016, adding that sexual preferences are a personal matter.

Also read: India’s first and oldest gay rights activist is also on the extreme right of RSS

Most recently, in July, a meeting attended by top RSS and BJP leaders agreed homosexuality should be private matter. The ‘Young Thinkers Meet’, held in Kasauli, was organised by the India Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank inclined to the RSS-BJP.

But also in July came BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s bizarre statement claiming homosexuality was a “danger to national security”. His remark invited widespread flak, and ridicule, in equal measure.

The Narendra Modi government, however, has not taken any position on decriminalising homosexuality. At the same time, it had made it clear that it will not oppose to striking down of Section 377, leaving it to the wisdom of the SC to rule on the matter.

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  1. A formation that aspires to be the natural party of governance in such a diverse land needs to evolve and adapt its orthodoxy. Language, diet, sexual mores, one size does not fit all.

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