Prominent politicians in India’s ruling party have announced their support for the repeal of the country’s anti-gay law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
“Decriminalising consensual sex between two adults is a pressing need,” Ashish Shelar, the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Mumbai, told an Aug. 15 meeting of about 250 LGBT people and their families.
As reported online by the Daily News & Analysis (DNA) newspaper, Shelar “also promised to raise the issue which affects over [40 million] people with prime minister Narendra Modi.”
Shelar’s words were “a departure from his party’s earlier unsupportive stand for the LGBT cause,” the DNA article stated.
In the eyes of many LGBT activists in India, last May’s election victory by the BJP was a setback for their efforts to overturn the country’s anti-homosexuality law.
That colonial-era law was suspended by the High Court in Delhi in 2009 and reinstated by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
India’s health minister, “Harsh Vardhan, has already shown his support for the cause” of repealing Section 377, Shelar said. “I also think parliament cannot ignore something which affects such a large number of people.”
During the meeting, activist lawyer Y.P. Singh disagreed with Shelar’s prediction about parliament.
“Political parties like the BJP and Congress won’t push for doing something because they’re more worried about their conservative vote bank,” he said.
The Aug. 15 gathering was organized by several organizations, including the Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based LGBT rights association.