The Indian Express newspaper reported that members of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, by a 71-24 vote margin voted against MP Shashi Thraoor’s bill that would have repealed the country’s colonial-era sodomy law known as Section 377.
Tharoor criticized the vote in a series of posts to his Twitter account.
1/2 Intro of Pvt.Member's Bill2decriminalize consensual sex btwn consenting adults defeated in LS 71-24. Surprising to see such intolerance.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 18, 2015
377 is not only about sex but about fundamental constitutional principles — equality before the law, privacy, dignity, non-discrimination.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 19, 2015
James Robertson, executive director of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi, criticized the vote.
“This is a sad day,” he told the Washington Blade. “I’m unfortunately not surprised, but it is a painful reminder of how much more work India’s LGBT community has ahead of it before it secures the legal protections that are now commonplace in the world’s democracies.”
Omkar, an electronics engineer from Bangalore, echoed Robertson.
He noted to the Blade that Friday’s vote “does not come as a surprise,” given the fact that the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party controls the Lok Sabha. Omkar also pointed out that less than 100 lawmakers were present when Tharoor introduced his measure.
“[The] Indian political class, by and large, is not sensitized enough to the problems of sexual minorities and long-term social effects of criminalizing sexual acts ‘against the order of nature,’” he said, referring to failed marriages and other issues. “We, as humans, have come a long way and sex holds much more importance in day to day lives than just procreation. Our political class is mostly ignorant of this fact.”
Friday’s vote took place roughly two years after the Supreme Court of India reinstated Section 377.
The Supreme Court of India a few months later said it would consider a motion to reconsider the controversial ruling that sparked outrage among LGBT advocates in India and around the world. The same court in April 2014 issued a landmark decision that recognizes transgender people as a “third gender.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in January during a speech in the Indian capital of New Delhi reaffirmed his opposition to laws that criminalize homosexuality.
“Laws criminalizing consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination,” he said during an event that commemorated the 70th anniversary of the founding of the U.N.