India’s top health minister creates hope among LGBT communityAround the World, Online Only, Top Highlights Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
INDIA — After India’s top court overturned a successful appeal decriminalizing sex between consenting adults of the same gender late last year, members of the LGBT community were demoralized. The decision, widely regarded as surprising given India’s role as the world’s largest democracy, left many in the community scratching their heads and asking: What’s next?
But a recent answer by India’s Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has rekindled a sense of hope, reports GlobalVoiceOnline.org. When asked about consensual gay sex and gay rights, Vardhan responded by saying that “everybody has human rights and it is the job of the government to protect them.” While failing to elaborate, the LGBT community, as well as the wider media at large, went into spin mode, interpreting his comments, however opaque, as a change in the tenor and tone of the conversation over gay rights.
Gargi Rawat, a prominent Indian news anchor, tweeted: “Health Minister @drharshvardhan gets it right.. ‘Human rights of gay community should be protected’ #decrimanalise.” Indian journalist and writer Minhas Merchant shared this with his 42,000 followers: “Delighted that Health Min Dr Harsh Vardhan supports gay rights. Logical next step–decriminalise regressive Art 377.”
India’s progress on social and sexual equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders has been nothing short of a rollercoaster, whipsawing between defeat and victory. In 2009, when the law criminalizing sex was overturned, the LGBT community was ecstatic. But, like in so many other countries that view themselves as progressive, critics were quick to jump on the decision. In fact, India’s top Health official – Ghulam Abi Nazad – argued that, “homosexuality [is] “unnatural” and a “disease” that had come from the West and was unfortunately spreading fast in the country.”
Shortly after the health minister’s positive comment, according to the report, the government clarified that the Supreme Court was currently hearing a curative petition on the matter and that the government had no plans to take up the matter of amending Section 377 until the Supreme Court gave its ruling.
Reaction among the young was, in many ways, not unlike the rest of the world where today’s younger generation – and not just the LGBT community – find the lack of equality insulting, egregious and a relic of the past which will soon be corrected once they assume power.
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