Gay community gives thumbs up to ‘relatively tolerant’ CongressApril 28th, 2009 - 11:21 am ICT by IANS
By Azera Rahman
New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community, which has been opposing “discriminatory” laws against them, has hardly got support from any political party. Nevertheless, most of the community members have decided to cast their vote for the Congress since they feel it is “relatively” more tolerant than the others.
According to officials of UNAIDS, there is no official data on the population of the gay community in India. In fact, collection of such data is illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Gay rights activists, however, put a rough estimate - and this includes only those who have come out admitting their alternate sexuality - at more than five percent of the Indian population.
Saleem Kidwai, a history scholar and gay rights activist, said that although sexual minorities constitute a sizeable number, political parties have never bothered to take up their issues.
“Despite constituting more than five percent of the population, political parties have not bothered to take up the alternate sexual community’s issues and therefore it is not an election issue. It’s amusing though, when we remind them that they too form a part of the electorate, politicians’ ears prick up and they listen patiently,” Kidwai, who taught at Delhi University for 20 years, told IANS.
Pramada Menon, a gay activist, however added that the community has been getting some positive response from certain sections of the political fraternity.
“In Mumbai, for instance, gay rights activists approached some political parties to get their support in their fight for their rights and they did get a positive response. But such instances are few and far between,” Menon said.
Yet when it comes to voting in the Lok Sabha polls, most members of the community have given a thumbs up to the Congress party and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government it leads.
Srivath, a dentist by profession, who came out of the closet when he was a teenager, said: “Personally, I support the UPA government because I am not sure whether any other will be as tolerant as them. Unlike any other politician, former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had spoken quite a lot about legalising homosexuality to curb the spread of HIV.”
Repeal of Section 377 which makes homosexuality a criminal act has been one of the main demands of the LGBT community.
Nipun Goyal, writer and gay activist, wrote on his blog: “Though none of the political parties has mentioned gay rights in their manifesto, their opinion on the issue is important for us to decide who forms the new government.”
Quoting various party leaders, Goyal wrote: “On June 30, 2008, Congress leader Oscar Fernandes backed calls for decriminalisation of consensual gay sex, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for greater tolerance towards homosexuals.”
“In August 2008, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss expressed his support for legalising homosexuality, but was opposed by the Law Ministry. On the other hand, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called homosexuality unnatural and Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) - although she spoke against Section 377 - did not say much in the community’s favour,” Goyal said.
To this one of the bloggers commented: “Though the UPA government has disappointed us on some fronts like terrorism and inflation, when it comes to which party suits the interests of the LGBT community best, UPA wins hands down.”
Anshu Kumar, a documentary film maker, added: “Though I am a totally apolitical person, I am definitely going to vote in these elections because it is important that a tolerant government which will understand the gay community’s issues and at least speak against human rights violations comes to power.”
“And in that matter, I think the Congress is the most tolerant - even if relatively,” she added.
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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