SC review of Sec 377 sparks debate in city

Bhubaneswar: The decision of the Supreme Court to re-examine its earlier verdict on homosexuality and refer it to a five-judge Constitution Bench Tuesday has given rise to a debate in the city about the rights of homosexual people.

Experts in health and education and social activists have welcomed the apex court’s decision. Hailing the Supreme Court’s move, Bishwa Bhushan Pattanayak, project director of the NGO Solidarity and Action Against HIV Infection in India (SAATHI), pointed out that the court has noted that the issue is related to constitutional rights and not to notions of morality. “I believe this will pave the way for wider discussions among experts and victims of harassment. We are ready to give evidence in support of the advocacy for repeal of the controversial provision in IPC,” Pattanayak said.

Owing to a dearth of legislation, he said, homosexuals often faced discrimination, which largely affects them emotionally, sometimes provoking them to attempt suicide. It takes a toll on their health.
“With the current law neither acknowledging nor supporting the existence homosexuality,
many parents of homosexual youth often subject them to shock therapies hoping to reverse their sexual orientation, a painful process that remains futile, as has been found in countless studies,” Dr Rewati Raman Rahul, a health expert, said.
He said the prevailing social mores force homosexuals to often hide their sexuality, which largely affects their health and emotional well-being and ruins the lives of their spouses. Experts said the absence of public disclosure of the gender identity of homosexual people also makes them vulnerable to a myriad of diseases even as the government’s targeted health services fail to reach them.

Homosexual people who have faced harassment at the hands of police and civilians said the apex court’s move has given them a ray of hope.
“Homosexuals from all over the country were very happy when Delhi High Court decided to repeal Section 377 in 2009. Social treatment and situations had started changing after that, but after the Supreme Court revoked the HC order, their sufferings resumed,” a homosexual person in the city said on the condition of anonymity.

The homosexual community in the city complains of police harassment and mental trauma inflicted by their families. They hope a law would recognise their sexual rights and create wider awareness among the masses, making their lives easier.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community Tuesday hailed the Supreme Court decision to review Section 377 of IPC. The LGBT community had been fighting a legal battle for the past two years to review the judgement that had banned homosexuality in India.

“I’m happy the Supreme Court has reopened the case. It is a ray of hope for the LGBT community which has been fighting for their rightful demands. Now the five-judge bench will review Section 377 which criminalises homosexuality in the country,” Anwesh Kumar Sahoo, the Mr Gay World India pageant winner, said.

Sahoo says it has been a long battle against discrimination and the biggest problem was the ‘social stigma’ associated with such people.
The Supreme Court while referring the matter for review, assured that the curative petitions for hearing the issue of de-criminalising homosexuality would be listed soon. PNN

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