NEW DELHI, 18 July-2014, Durgesh Nandan Jha/TNN: Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday said the rights of homosexuals, like everyone else’s, should be protected — a statement interpreted as his support for decriminalization of consensual homosexual act between adults.
“Everybody has human rights. It is the job of the government to protect them,” Vardhan said, in response to a question posed by journalists about his views on gay rights and decriminalization of consensual gay sex between adults. He was speaking on the sidelines of an event organized by the health ministry in the capital.
The health minister declined to elaborate when asked whether he was diverging from the stand of his party. BJP had supported the Supreme Court judgment that upheld the validity of Section 377 of IPC, criminalizing homosexuality.
Vardhan’s statement comes after Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) spokesman Ram Madhav, who has now joined BJP as general secretary, made a pitch for gay rights. Madhav, in an interview to a business daily, said while he did not glorify certain kinds of behaviour covered by Section 377, it was debatable whether they should be considered a crime.
Sources said the health minister’s views are significant as it marks a churn in the Sangh Parivar on the issue with sources saying that Ram Madhav’s statement was reflective of that. In fact, opinion in the BJP had seemed split in December last year when Supreme Court upheld the validity of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalized homosexuality.
However, the window for an intense debate was slammed shut when the then party chief Rajnath Singh termed gay sex “unnatural”.
“It seems that the party and RSS, BJP’s ideological parent, are ready to soften their stand on the issue.
The SC set aside the Delhi high court verdict of July 2, 2009, which had read down section 377, thus decriminalizing consensual sex between adults of the same gender.
The SC is at present hearing a curative petition on the matter.