Tag Archive for homosexuality

Supreme Court upholds gay sex ban, activists protest across India

gay- sex -ban- india

Supreme Court ruling upholding the colonial law of Section 377 is a betrayal of queer and human rights in India, activists gather in protest

By Team FI

The day after the world paid respect to the rights of human being to freedom by celebrating Human Rights Day, the Supreme Court of India ruled to uphold Section 377, thus criminalising homosexuality in the country. This ruling has overturned the Delhi High Court judgement in 2009 that had struck down this ban that dates from the colonial era.

A two-judge bench washed its hands of the issue by stating that it is not up to the courts to intervene, and has passed the buck to the Parliament. “It is up to Parliament to legislate on this issue,” declared the head of the two-member bench, Justice G.S. Singhvi, in the ruling.

A press release issue by Voices Against 377, Alternative Law Forum, Adhikaar and other petitioners including parents of LGBT persons, mental health professionals, academics and law professors has declared the judgement as extremely disappointing, calling it an “unconscionable blow to the dignity of LGBT persons who as per the Indian Constitution are entitled to equal treatment.” The press release pointed out that this has reduced “LGBT persons to the status of what the Delhi High Court memorably called ‘unapprehended felons’”.

It is to be recalled that Delhi High Court in 2009 had said the criminalization of homosexuality forced “a sizeable section of society… to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation, cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery”.

The press release likened this to Supreme Court decisions upholding the emergency and legitimizing rape that marks the lowest ebb in the illustrious history of the Court. “In 1975 in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, the Supreme Court upheld the declaration of emergency which deprived all citizens of the right to life in India. In 1979, in Mathuras case, the Supreme Court in effect declared that women who were raped should be disbelieved. In 2013 the Supreme Court has held that LGBT persons are not human beings whose dignity and life is violated by a colonial law,” stated the release.

In another statement, Amnesty International called it a black day for human rights in India. “This decision is a body blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India. “It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights.”

Protests have been planned all over the country by human rights and queer rights activist.

Full Text of Press Release

Black Day for Human Rights, Queer Rights

We are deeply disappointed at the decision of the Supreme Court in Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Naz Foundation. The decision by overturning the historic Delhi High Court judgment which recognized that LGBT persons are full citizens of India, attempts to stem the tide of history. By overturning the Naz Foundation judgment, the Supreme Court has, in one fell stroke again reduced LGBT persons to the status of what the Delhi High Court memorably called ‘unapprehended felons’. The judgment of the Supreme Court is a unconscionable blow to the dignity of LGBT persons who as per the Indian Constitution are entitled to equal treatment. It withdraws the protective arm of the constitution from LGBT persons and renders LGBT persons vulnerable to discrimination, violence and harassment.

It is a tragedy that this judgment forgets the vision of the founders of the Indian republic which was so eloquently captured by the Delhi High Court. By re-criminalizing LGBT persons the judgment ignores the spirit of inclusiveness which is the heart of the Indian Constitution as articulated by Jawaharlal Nehru. It equally abandons the principle of constitutional morality (ie majorities dont have a charter to discriminate against minorities purely because they are majorities) articulated by Dr. Ambedkar which is the cornerstone of a diverse and plural nation.

The judgment is thus a deep betrayal of the fundamental constitutional promise that the dignity of all citizens would be recognized and that equal treatment is a non negotiable element of the world’s largest democracy. In this betrayal of constitutional faith, the Court has shredded the very principles it has sworn itself to uphold.

This decision today along with the decisions upholding the emergency and legitimizing rape marks the lowest ebb in the illustrious history of the Supreme Court. In 1975 in ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla, the Supreme Court upheld the declaration of emergency which deprived all citizens of the right to life in India. In 1979, in Mathuras case, the Supreme Court in effect declared that women who were raped should be disbelieved. In 2013 the Supreme Court has held that LGBT persons are not human beings whose dignity and life is violated by a colonial law.

Hard as this decision is and difficult as the road forward may be, we draw strength and inspiration from ordinary LGBT persons who will not allow this to affect the way they lead their lives. In the course of the last ten years or so, LGBT persons have begun to lead their lives openly and publicly proclaiming their claim to equal citizenship. The page of history has turned and no power on earth can deny LGBT persons the right to freedom, equality and dignity. Rights are not conferred by the Court, as the Naz judgment said, they are merely confirmed by them. The rights of LGBT persons cannot be taken by this decision.

We proclaim that in spite of the judgment of the Supreme Court, the only way the LGBT movement will go is forward and the arc of history though long will turn towards justice. We pledge to continue this struggle with re doubled vigour till such time that Section 377 is consigned to where it belongs- the dustbins of history.

11.12.2013, New Delhi

Issued by: Voices Against 377, Alternative Law Forum, Adhikaar and other petitioners including parents of LGBT persons, mental health professionals, academics and law professors.

Human Rights: India’s disappointing response to UN

child-labour

UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review urges India to ratify UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances and repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) while India defers response till September

By Team FI

The draft report of the Universal Periodic Review of India’s human rights record, conducted by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 24 May 2012 and adopted on 30 May 2012, has submitted 169 recommendations to the Government of India (GoI). The review prepared by 80 countries includes recommendations to ratify the UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances; to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA); to adopt the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill; to enact comprehensive reforms to address sexual violence and all acts of violence against women; to improve human rights training of police officers; to strengthen efforts to combat trafficking and address the inequities based on rural-urban divide.

Government of India declined to comment on the recommendations, deferring its response till before the plenary session of the HRC in Geneva in September 2012. According to Miloon Kothari, Convener of Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN (WGHR), “We look forward to a constructive response from the GoI as it formulates responses to the many useful suggestions that are contained in the document adopted by the UN on May 30, 2012. These responses from the GoI should be formulated after thorough consultations with the Parliament, human rights institutions, civil society and independent institutions.”

However, as per the WGHR, India’s initial response during the UPR session  saw a “lack of acceptance of human rights challenges in the country and a mere reiteration of domestic laws, policies and Constitutional provisions by the Government of India” The press release of the organisation regretted that “the answers of the government did not address critical issues related to gaps in implementation of laws and enjoyment of rights, with India’s Attorney General who led the government delegation, stating in his opening address that, “India has the ability to self-correct.”

“By employing a defensive and largely self-righteous position at the HRC, GoI has, at least in its initial response at the HRC, once again lost the opportunity to constructively engage with the UN human rights system and in accepting the enormous human rights challenges it is faced with.”  Says Kothari.

During India’s first UPR in 2008, GoI had accepted recommendations to ratify the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances (CED) which have however remained unfulfilled. The current UPR had several of the 80 countries which participated, reiterating these recommendations. However WGHR points out that while the GoI spoke about the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB) which is pending before Parliament, it ignored the fact of the Bill’s non-compliance with the CAT’s definition of torture.

WGHR states that not only did the GoI didn’t comment on the ratification of CED but also “dodged the recommendations for repeal and review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by referring to the Supreme Court’s upholding of its constitutionality and by citing Army’s human rights cell as a redressal mechanism.”

Ms. Vrinda Grover, human rights lawyer and member of WGHR, expressed serious concerns at GoI’s misleading response to the HRC, “The refusal and reluctance of GoI to squarely address the issue of impunity under AFSPA, in spite of numerous recommendations by international bodies, government appointed committees and UN Special Rapporteurs is unacceptable in a country that proclaims to be the largest democracy in the world.”

In response to the several recommendations to ratify the Optional Protocol (complaint mechanism) to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), India during the UPR session had stated that its domestic legal remedies were adequate to address gender-based discrimination. WGHR regretted the fact that GoI did not engage substantially with recommendations made on issues relating to women, including maternal mortality, pre-natal sex selection, infanticide, sexual and gender-based violence, political participation of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, early/child marriage, harmful traditional practices, honour crimes, and trafficking.

WGHR was however appreciative of the GoI’s stand on the issue of homosexuality, where the government affirmed its support of the High Court of Delhi judgment decriminalizing homosexuality and stated that it would take a sensitive view of the matter that has been appealed in the Supreme Court.

Featured Photo by Ramlath Kavil

Vatican Slams American Nuns for Feminist Thinking

Photo by Michele Oliveira

An umbrella group of Catholic nuns in America was targeted by a Vatican investigation that accused them of being silent on abortion, homosexuality and disagreeing politically with American Bishops

By Team FI

On 18 April, 2012, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith accused an umbrella group of American nuns – the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), of having “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life”. The report has stunned the organisation, sending shockwaves through the community.

The sore points for the Vatican were that American nuns chose not to propagate the Church’s stand when it came to issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and ordination of women and the report equated silence to endorsement. LCWR came in for particular criticism.

As per the report “While there has been a great deal of work on the part of LCWR promoting issues of social justice in harmony with the church’s social doctrine, it is silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.” The Vatican has given the organisation a period of five years to tow the party line or face consequences and has appointed Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle to oversee the work.

LCWR responded in a statement on their website that they are “stunned by the conclusions of the doctrinal assessment of LCWR by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The organisation’s working partner – Network, a Washington, DC lobbying group founded by Catholic sisters in 1971, involved in healthcare and poverty programmes was also targeted. Letters from a few in the group were cited as “protesting the Holy See’s actions regarding the question of women’s ordination and of a correct pastoral approach to ministry to homosexual persons.”

“I’ve no idea what they’re talking about,” Sister Simone Campbell, head of Network, told the BBC. “It’s painfully obvious that the leadership of the church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue,” Campbell said.

The report has also criticised American nuns for taking political stands that were in direct contravention of positions held by the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”.  Sister Campbell felt that the report was a result of Network’s support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. “There’s a strong connection,” she said. “We didn’t split on faith, we split on politics.” The nuns had chosen to disagree with American Bishops who viewed the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act as backing state-funded abortion.

The investigation which began in 2009 apparently has its roots in the decreasing numbers of Catholic women choosing to become nuns – from 180,000 in 1965 to less than 60,000 currently.

The Vatican-ordered investigation called the Apostolic Visitation had Mother Mary Clare Millea, who has a doctorate in canon law from Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, investigate the matter. As per a report in The Daily Beast, Mother Mary Clare Millea “visited scores of religious houses and convents and interviewed hundreds of mothers superior who oversee the nearly 400 religious congregations in the United States. She excluded nuns living in cloistered or contemplative convents and instead focused on the 57,000 religious women who work in schools, agencies for the poor, universities, and churches.”

Her findings were submitted to the Cardinal William Levada, head of the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who would in turn write the final report which would be approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

Featured photo by Michele Oliveira