Shashi Tharoor’s Mission for Queer Rights

Shashi Tharoor has been leading a crusade against the former British colonial empire through his words. In June 2015, Dr. Tharoor made an argument urging the British to pay reparations to India, or at least acknowledge the wrongdoings in their colonial past. More recently, during the launch of his book ‘Inglorious Empire’, he compared the former British PM Winston Churchill, an otherwise revered leader, to Adolf Hitler, perhaps the most demonized man in history who is considered synonymous with heinous crimes.

Simultaneously, Tharoor has also been battling with another after-effect of our colonial past that we can’t seem to let go of: Section 377.

About 3 years ago, Tharoor was a better known as a suspect in the murder of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. While the case hasn’t been closed yet, his arguments against the British seem to have wiped the accusation, at least from the public’s memory. Perhaps it also erased controversies such as his ‘cattle class’ statement. Perhaps he chose to redeem his political persona by picking (albeit rationally) on the British Raj, a historical ‘enemy’ of the masses.

What is puzzling, though is his ceaseless support for LGBT rights. LGBT rights, unlike in the USA, have not established themselves as a binary in Indian political discourse. The Supreme Court chose to uphold Section 377 in 2013 in spite of Delhi High Court verdict against it in 2009. While people convicted under the Section are said to be very low, the community constantly faces bullying, harassment, assault and discrimination from authorities, society and their families. If nothing, 377 remains a tool to oppress sexual minorities even though the law deems any acts of ‘unnatural sex’ as illegal.

Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Arun Jaitley, Prakash Javadekar are some of the politicians publicly denouncing the law. But their actions seem limited to passing the buck on to the Supreme Court, which did the same to the parliament back in 2013.

While this rally goes on, Tharoor remains the only person who has attempted to introduce a bill in parliament to scrap this law. While his move was rejected at the Lok Sabha in the early stages twice so far, Shashi Tharoor is far from giving up.

He is now urging his home state, Kerala, to take up leadership against 377. Kerala, being the first Indian state to have a transgender policy a special transgender justice board, and a transgender school, might just take up the cause.

Even if Kerala doesn’t, Tharoor doesn’t seem likely to abandon this cause. Apart from his support for LGBT rights, Shashi Tharoor has another quality that separates him from the many of our politicians: that of rationality (in most instances).

Tanika Godbole