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A Lok Sabha Of Homophobic MPs

15/03/2016 8:07 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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DIBYANGSHU SARKAR via Getty Images
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in Kolkata on July 13, 2014. Hundreds of LGBT activists particpated in the rally to demand equal social and human rights for their community and stop social discrimination. AFP PHOTO/ Dibyangshu Sarkar (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece where I discussed five disquieting trends we witnessed in the last winter session of Parliament. The fifth issue was not allowing Shashi Tharoor to introduce his Private Member's Bill (PMB). Congress MP Tharoor was going to introduce a PMB to amend Section 377 of the IPC and decriminalize "consensual sex between consenting adults". However, just when he was about to introduce the Bill, BJP MP Nishikant Dube decided to prevent him, and after calling for a vote in the house (71 against, 24 for), Tharoor's Bill was disallowed even from introduction.

Tharoor clearly didn't see that coming and had no time to rally for support. Attendance is usually low on Friday afternoons as MPs fly back to their respective constituencies after attending question and zero hours. PMBs are introduced every alternate Friday and introduction of this Bill would not have in any manner meant an immediate amendment to Section 377.

To not allow the introduction of a PMB is arguably the highest form of parliamentary intolerance.

To not allow the introduction of a PMB is arguably the highest form of parliamentary intolerance. Even the introduction wouldn't have assured a discussion. PMBs for discussion are chosen through a ballot, and as legislative analyst Aparna Gupta puts it, "the chance of a bill coming up for discussion is harder a gamble than hitting a jackpot in a casino slot machine."

If a Bill does eventually come up for discussion (it is valid for three years after introduction), passing it is an even more herculean a task. Since independence, only 14 PMBs have been passed. The almost unanimous rejection of the Bill is surprising as PMBs are not 'political' and a party stand or whip are not in play, at all. Employing such an aggressive stance seemed unfair to Tharoor, proving to be yet another instance of the majority being unnecessarily parochial and regressive.

And after that huge disappointment, to Tharoor's credit, in an attempt to keep advocacy efforts alive, he went on to start a change.org campaign calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality. It seemed an interesting way to convey to his peers in the Lok Sabha that this was an issue that Indians felt quite strongly about. The support was astounding and the campaign received 65k+ signatures in a few days. After all that support, you would think MPs would have changed their mind? At least, Tharoor seemed optimistic.

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But in Indian politics, lessons are seldom learnt. The MPs went on to defeat the introduction of Tharoor's Bill once again. So much for Jay Panda's fascinating rumours which he was supposedly privy to in the Central Hall! Even Tharoor hadn't learnt his lessons from the last time. While he actively sought support from progressive and like-minded MPs this time around, those who did not want to disappoint him him by voting against the Bill, did the next best thing. Absented themselves.

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Chief Justice Sahib, the ball is now in your court! Let's hope you deliver when our MPs have chosen to willingly fail, not once, but twice.

However, when one door closes, another opens. Some of the larger issues which he would have raised in his private member Bill speech, found its way into his speech on the Rights of Transgender Bill which was up for discussion last week.

Chief Justice Sahib, the ball is now in your court! Let's hope you deliver when our MPs have chosen to willingly fail, not once, but twice.

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