Will Kerala Become the First Indian State to Repeal Section 377?

Kerala may soon become the first state in India to amend/repeal Section 377 of the IPC. According to a report in Times of India, Law Secretary B G Harindranath has drafted a “bill on amending Section 377 which will be introduced in the assembly.”

Congress MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor, had also met the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the swearing in of the new Chief Justice of Kerala and discussed the possibility of the state bringing in a legislation to amend Section 377. Prior to that, Mr. Tharoor had written a letter to the Kerala CM asking the state to take the lead by amending Section 377 and decriminalising homosexuality.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor Discussing with Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan his proposal that Kerala send a signal to the rest of India by decriminalizing Sec 377 in the state.

Dr. Tharoor had tried introducing a Private Member’s Bill to amend Section 377 in the Lok Sabha twice, but his efforts were thwarted both the times by the treasury benches at an introductory stage itself. More recently, he has introduced another Private Member’s Bill in the Lok Sabha titled Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill, that promises “to ensure equality to every citizen of the country by providing protection against all forms of social discrimination,” including gender and sexual minorities.

Even if the Bill is introduced in the Kerala Legislative Assembly, and gets passed, it will still need Presidential nod. However, it will open another route for LGBTQ activists to pursue the fight against Section 377 by urging governments at the State level. The Supreme Court of India, while delivering its 2013 verdict reinstating Section 377, too had said that Parliament (or legislature) is free to amend or repeal the law.

Sukhdeep Singh