Coalition to Work for Rights of LGBT Community in South Asia
Photo: Sunil Pant
Mumbai: The upcoming Lok Sabha elections and the world wide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement may not have anything in common but keeping in mind the fact that homosexuality is illegal in over 80 countries with India being one of them, international pressure groups are urging that the rights of this marginalised community be seriously addressed this election season.
On Wednesday, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) with a coalition of four countries in the South Asian region, where homophobia and discriminatory laws against homosexuality is rampant, chaired their first meeting in the city. Countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India in coalition with SIDA will work collectively to ensure that rights of this minority community are looked after seriously.
Giving teeth to this Mumbai Chapter was Nepal’s gay Member of Parliament, Sunil Babu Pant. “Abuse of the LGBT community takes place all over the world part of this is also the discriminatory laws we have. In Nepal we brought a sea change when a small Communist party put the LGBT rights on their election manifesto and came to power. Today Nepal as a country is more open to accept us in the mainstream society,” said Pant. Pant says India can go a long way if a similar approach is adopted here. “Acceptance of the LGBT community in the mainstream is a two-way process. Though homophobia has to be reduced at the grass root level, lot of this change can also take place if our rights are protected. Since India considers itself to be a champion of democracy, it should make serious efforts to put an end to unfriendly laws,” said Pant.
As this coalition’s main ambition is to bring changes in LGBT rights in South Asia, their main aim for India is to change the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which defines homosexuality as a criminal offence. The coalition formed by SIDA will be meeting in Delhi next month to discuss the issue with the government. “We had filed a PIL with the Delhi High Court eight years back to change this section. There is a serious need to scrap this section as this gives the state the right to intervene in anyone’s personal life. The section has been used for harassment, physical and sexual violence in the past. Hence the LGBT community seriously thinks that the Act is more of a corruption issue than law and order one,” said activist lawyer, Aditya Bandyopadyay.