Goa Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar of the BJP went back on his purported statement on setting up treatment centres for LGBT youth in the state, stating that he was ‘misquoted’ and was in fact speaking about drug addicts and sexually abused youth.
Tawadkar was caught in a severe storm on the online and social media and even appeared isolated within his party after he made a statement saying that the government was mulling setting up a centre on the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous to treat LGBT youth. “We will make them normal…….we will train (them) and give them medicines too…”, said the minister. The comments attracted a lot of negative attention on social media, with members of the LGBT community offering to get themselves treated and protest gatherings being planned in Mumbai and Bangalore.
Within 24 hours of his statement however, Tawadkar was forced on the backfoot due to the widespread negative coverage his comments received. The Chief Minister of Goa Lakshmikant Parsekar, in an attempt at damage control, told reporters that homosexuality was a ‘natural gift’ and that there was no government policy on ‘normalizing’ LGBT youth who were not suffering from any disease. He added that the comments by the minister seemed to have been made in ignorance.
BJP spokesperson Shaina NC said in a TV debate later that the minister had made unacceptable remarks and that it did not make any sense to criminalize people on the basis of an archaic law. The BJP has not projected a united stand on criminalization of homosexuality, with various party leaders putting out completely contrary statements before the media. While Arun Jaitley has said that he doesn’t support criminalization, then party leader Rajnath Singh had said that his party supports the contention of homosexuality being unnatural. Other leaders like Subramanian Swamy have routinely put out anti homosexuality views in the media. ‘Curing’ of homosexuals has also been an oft quoted claim by Swami Ramdev, an influential spiritual leader cum health guru who has said that practice of Yoga can help rid people of the ‘affliction’.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in a statement made at New Delhi said. “I am proud to stand for the equality of all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. I speak out because laws criminalising consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Even if they are not enforced, these laws breed intolerance. Indian government should really promote the human rights of those people with different sexual orientation, homosexuality. This penal code should be decriminalized for those people of homosexuality.”
Same-sex relations in India have been re-criminalized since December 2013 following a Supreme Court verdict re-affirming the constitutionality of Section 377 that criminalizes same sex behaviour. A curative petition urging re-consideration of this verdict has been pending with the Supreme Court since April 2014.
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