While India’s Health Minister may still be having a colonial hangover, the country originally responsible for bringing in Sec 377 to India and various other countries that it ruled in the past, is moving forward with LGBT rights. United Kingdom has been making steady progress on gay rights and UK’s current Prime Minister David Cameron is known to be pro-LGBT. UK also has a separate Equalities Minister to ensure all citizens of the country have equal rights.
UK granted civil partnerships for gay couples in 2004, giving same-sex couples rights similar to married straight couples. In 2010, UK’s parliament enacted the Equality Bill. The Equality Act 2010 is an anti-discrimination law, aimed at bringing more equality, and preventing discrimination based on any grounds, including gender and sexuality, at both private and public workplaces. The Act though had its share of criticism too, with Christian groups telling that it infringes upon their right to refuse service to gay people and thus curbs religious freedom. “Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity for all members of society. Yet as you have rightly pointed out, the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs. In some respects it actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed,” Pope Benedict XVI had said.
In September, UK also lifted a long term ban on gay men from donating blood. A lifetime ban on gay men from donating blood has been introduced in the 1980s as a response to fight HIV/AIDS. Though the ban on blood donation was lifted, the new provisions bar people having engaged in oral or anal sex in the last 1 year from donating blood. The current government has recently reiterated its commitment towards equality and promised to change laws in England and Wales to allow gay marriages in place of Civil Unions. Equalities Minister of UK Lynne Featherstone has said that the current laws are “simply not fair”. The country has also threatened to cut aid to countries that persecute gay people and impose fines for anti-gay laws. “The Government is committed to combating violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all circumstances, in this country and abroad. We take action where we have concerns. We only provide aid directly to governments when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to reduce poverty and respect human rights,” a government spokesperson was quoted by The Mail.
The progress made by the country in the last 6-7 years is impressive. Can our own parliament not take a lesson or two from the country whose archaic laws it continues to use?