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On Section 377, BJP doesn't get it. It is not about 'cultural values', but about personal liberty.
BJP president Rajnath Singh took his time reacting to the Supreme Court judgment upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and reversing the Delhi High Court's 2009 order that decriminalised gay sex. And when he did react, he posed it as a question: "How can anyone justify unnatural acts?" In doing so, he has, of course, betrayed a regressive outlook that militates against inclusion and personal choice, one that presumes to consolidate prejudice based on a contrived reading of what may be the "natural" social order. But what is even more shocking is that he is using the question to misrepresent an issue related to personal liberty as one about "cultural values". If, as chief of the main opposition party, he cannot — or refuses to — zero in on the issue of an individual's right to life and equality, he is showing himself and the political party he leads to be grossly unequal to the task of upholding the very constitutional values from which they derive their democratic guarantees.
Nobody is asking the BJP, or any other political party, to speak their mind on whether they understand any sexual activity to be natural or unnatural or whether it is sanctioned by religious texts or cultural practice. In a democracy, no one needs a politician's sanction on personal affairs. The question before parliamentarians, now that the Supreme Court in an astounding betrayal has lobbed the future of Section 377 to Parliament, is one of fundamental rights, and it has to be benchmarked against the reading of constitutional morality in the Delhi High Court's landmark judgment. An affirmation of the high court's reading down of Section 377 is being demanded on the basis of those very same rights that, for example, the BJP's tallest leaders built a reputation defending during the Emergency. The party and its leadership cannot evade the issue by launching into arbitrary monologues on what is natural or not. In so far as certain provisions of Section 377 relate to consenting adults, what is being sought from the courts and the legislature is not a reappraisal of what is "unnatural", but in fact a reading down of what inhibits their rights as citizens of this republic.
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