Sunday 28 June 2009

Laws banning homosexuality need a review, says India's federal law minister

Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice says that the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), drafted in Victorian India, which criminalises homosexuality, requires a thorough review.

Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice contended that the controversial Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), drafted during the British colonial era and which criminalises homosexuality, needs a thorough review.
He said this while addressing a press conference at Thiruvantapuram, the capital city of India's southern state of Kerala on Sunday (June 28).

At a 'Meet the Press' interaction hosted by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, Moily clarified that he would soon be meeting federal Home Minister P. Chidambaram and federal Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, to decide the fate of Section 377.

Moily is believed to be in favour of repealing Section 377 from the IPC.

He pointed out that many sections of the IPC are outdated and government is exploring possibilities of amending such laws and updating legal provisions so that they were in tune with the times.

He revealed that the federal government would hold discussions with all sections of society before taking the final decision on repealing Section 377 of the IPC.

"I think whenever you make a law, it's to facilitate but not to punish people. So taking that view into account, I think even Section 377 requires a re look, a re-visit," noted Veerappa Moily, India's federal Minister of Law and Justice.

However, he was quick to react when asked whether homosexuality would be made legal in India.

He said that repeal doesn't necessarily means legalising the act.

"When you say repeal that does not mean it's to legalise that activity," added Moily.

Many organisations have raised protests against the government's move to repeal the controversial section of the IPC.

The Home Ministry had earlier argued before the High Court that homosexuality is not accepted by Indian society and repealing Section 377 from the IPC would encourage more anti-social activities.

Section 377 of the IPC criminalizes 'carnal intercourse' against the order of nature.

Homosexuality is generally considered a taboo subject both by the Indian civil society and the government.

Sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly, but in recent years, attitudes towards homosexuality have undergone a shift.

The government no longer seeks to prosecute adults engaging in private consensual homosexual acts.

The campaign to decriminalise homosexuality has strengthened thanks to the efforts of organisations such as NAZ foundation, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the Law Commission of India, the Union Health Ministry, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Planning Commission of India.

The United Nations too has urged India to decriminalise homosexuality, saying it would help to fight the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

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