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Why India COULDN'T Have Voted For Gay Rights In UN (And What We Can Do To Change This)

06/04/2015 8:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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An Indian gay-rights activist gestures behind a flag during a protest against the Supreme Court ruling reinstating a ban on gay sex in Bangalore on December 11, 2013. India's Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex on that could see homosexuals jailed for up to ten years in a major setback for rights campaigners in the world's biggest democracy. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, a Russia-drafted resolution that proposed removing benefits for same-sex partners of UN staff was put to vote. India was among the 43 countries that voted in support of the resolution, but it failed to pass in the General Assembly committee after 80 nations opposed it along with 37 abstentions. Other nations that voted in support of the resolution were China, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE to name a few.

As citizens of a secular, inclusive democracy, it is disheartening to see India support a socially regressive cause and stand alongside countries that are infamous for their human rights records. Many people took to the internet to express their disappointment. Newspaper articles, for example this one in The Times of India, went as far as to overtly criticise the decision.

Bollywood Gandu tweeted, "Good news: India & Pakistan finally find common ground. Bad news: It's bigotry."

And I agree, it's bigotry.

But if India had voted against the resolution, it would have been hypocrisy, albeit of another kind. What we must learn to accept (even if we do not agree with it) is that as per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, homosexuality in India is a criminal offense.

"How can the Government of India or its representative vote in a manner that is not in accordance with Indian law?"

And herein lies the problem. How can the Government of India or its representative vote in a manner that is not in accordance with Indian law? Is it acceptable for a person, persons or departments representing a state to vote their conscience in an international assembly with disregard for the law of their land?

I don't think so.

The reason is simple. To allow for the conscience of one or a few to influence policy decisions may seem fair when it is an issue such as LGBTIQ rights but it opens the door for abuse that may potentially have disastrous consequences.

Would you want someone to vote their conscience let's say in a matter of nuclear policy? Or would you want the comfort of knowing that your country's representatives will vote in accordance with our foreign policy which has been drafted by officials we have elected into office? What if someone changed their vote in exchange for a bribe?

Of course you wouldn't want to risk that. And as painful as it was to see India vote in support of the ludicrous resolution, it was done in accordance with our domestic policy and law.

"As citizens, if we really want to see our country to be in a position to vote against such resolutions, we need to encourage socio-political dialogue which advocates the unconditional acceptance of homosexuality."

However, there was an alternate solution. A solution we had resorted to as recently as last year, when India had abstained from voting on a previous resolution against LGBT discrimination, one that was passed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2014.

So what is the real problem? That brings me to my final point.

As citizens, if we really want to see our country to be in a position to vote against such resolutions, we need to encourage socio-political dialogue which advocates the unconditional acceptance of homosexuality. The initiatives we work for must be at the grassroots level. Whether we join a group or get involved in our neighbourhoods is irrelevant -- the idea is to try to contribute in a physical capacity. And if you're too busy to do that, as of last week the Honorable Supreme Court of India did away with Section 66A of the Indian IT Act which means you cannot be arrested for expressing your opinions online so with Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social media platforms on your phone you can go right ahead and engage with your network through your fingertips.

This is a good starting point for those looking to get involved but don't necessarily know where or how to begin.

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