For a second time in a row, the Lok Sabha voted against the introduction of a private member’s bill brought by Congress MP Shashi Thraoor to decriminalise homosexuality.
For a second time in a row, the Lok Sabha voted against the introduction of a private member’s bill brought by Congress MP Shashi Thraoor to decriminalise homosexuality. The bill was rejected at the introduction stage after the BJP sought division of votes.
Mr Tharoor, who had also brought similar bill in the Winter Session of the Parliament as a private member bill, sought amendment to the “colonial-era” Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. The bill in its objective stated that its aim is to “decriminalise sexual intercourse in private between consenting adults, irrespective of their sexuality or gender by restricting the applicability of the section”.
After Mr Tharoor sought the approval of Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, the BJP members demanded division of votes, which was granted. In the vote count, 58 out of 73 members present voted against introduction of the bill, while 14 were in its favour. One member abstained from voting.
Incidentally, the Supreme Court in December 2013 had overturned a verdict of the Delhi high court that had set aside Section 377 of the IPC, while asking the government to take a view on the controversial subject of decriminalising homosexuality. The Delhi high court in 2009 ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional.
Later, Mr Tharoor accused the BJP of using its “brute majority” in Lok Sabha to thwart his second attempt in three months to introduce a private member’s bill to decriminalise homosexuality. “It was religious bigotry of the ruling party that had disallowed discussion on his private bill to amend the colonial-era Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality. The Parliament is a place for open deliberations on all issues,” said Mr Tharoor.
The Congress MP, however, made a good use of the opportunity to speak on another private member bill on the “Rights of Transgender Persons”, which was brought by BJD MP B.J. Panda. Speaking on this bill, Mr Tharoor said: “The House is not allowed to deliberate on a law which was framed by the British rulers on the principles of Victorian morality. Even President Pranab Mukherjee previously had advocated rewriting of the IPC substantively.”
The BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab argued that the government should legislate on measures to safeguard the interests of transgenders.