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'Admitting petition on Section 377 is a giant step'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
February 02, 2016 18:28 IST
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'The reopening of the petition shows that there was something that was flawed in (the earlier) Supreme Court judgment, and this means another step forward.'
'More than seven states in our country have banned sex education in schools through legislative action. It shows how our mind is closing down.'

Ashok Row Kavi, the veteran journalist, is also the nation's most vocal Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activist, someone who has been fighting for the community's cause for 40 years.

A fiery advocate of the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality, Ashok Row Kavi has been in the forefront of the legal provision's repeal.

On Tuesday, February 2, afternoon, soon after the Supreme Court agreed to refer the curative petition on Section 377 to a five-judge bench, Ashok Row Kavi, image, left, spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ about its implications for the community.

How do you see the Supreme Court decision on Section 377, considering it had said in its 2013 verdict that it was up to Parliament to rescind it?

It's fantastic because curative petitions have a success rate of 0.38 percent. The very fact that this curative petition has been admitted by the court is itself a giant progressive step.

Secondly, the reopening of the petition shows that there was something that was flawed in (the earlier) Supreme Court judgment (of 2013), and this means another step forward.

The third step which one must note is that they are constituting a five-member bench very cleverly, since the more the members on a bench the seriousness is more and there are bigger chances of success.

While a lot of things have changed in India over a period of time, not so gay rights. Why you think we as a society have been unable to give equal rights to the LGBT community?

Let me take you a little step backward. This is a much wider subject than just Section 377.

More than seven states in our country have banned sex education in schools through legislative action. It shows how our mind is closing down.

There are sexual behavioural studies of college students which say things like 'oral sex is kissing.' If this is the level of sexual awareness, what do you expect in a society?

You have been fighting police harassment of LGBTs because of Section 377.

Yes, that is so because extortion and blackmail are happening through Section 377.

Yesterday I was on a television debate where (former Delhi additional commissioner of police) Amod Kanth said that 'This law has been used in very few cases, why are you people worried?' So my answer to him was, 'If there are very few cases, then why do you need this law? If you are misusing it, then you reform it or throw it out.'

Do you think Parliament should have brought in a supportive bill for LGBTs instead of leaving it to the courts?

That is why I am taking you to sexuality and the lessons in education. If our members of Parliament are that backward, so un-progressive and homophobic and don't want to deal with the misogyny of people like Sharad Yadav of the JD-U (Janata Dal-United), then how do you expect them to take a progressive look at homosexuality?

This political class has lost all its moorings. It has no concept about our culture.

One Hindu Mahasabha woman told me on a television debate that next you will be doing it with animals. I told her go to the Khajuraho temples, see how they show sex with animals there.

The only thing I find wrong there is that you have not taken the permission of animals (laughs).

Otherwise, consenting adults in private, what is your problem? She said, 'You want to do it in public.' I told her I am 70 years old now and you expect me to accept anybody doing sex on the roads? Even straight couples are not allowed to display their love on the roads, you think gay people want to be given that permission?

Again and again we are saying that Section 377 should be read down to say 'consenting sex between adults in private.' This is the phrase we want to put in and it should be outside the purview of Section 377. But this doesn't go into their minds.

Baba Ramdev says homosexuality can be cured through yoga. Do you agree?

He is an ass. Actually, he says it is avaigyanik (unscientific). I want to know what scientific knowledge he has.

First of all, I am demanding to know his education level. He is just a yoga teacher. He has said that homosexuality is an American disease.

Who then have made those Khajuraho temples? Americans? It is all openly displayed in those temples.

He talks of 'putra beej (male child producing) medicine and all sorts of rubbish. Last time I asked him on television, you are a brahmachari (celibate), how then do you know so much about sexuality?

Has any political party supported you openly?

None of them. The Aam Aadmi Party said yes, yes, but they did not put it in their manifesto. The Congress also said they are supporting us, but they did not.

The day they know we are a 30, 40 million strong community, then they will open up slowly.

We had a meeting with the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party's Mumbai chief, Ashish Shelar. He was horrified to see how middle class children were being harassed through Section 377. He said, 'We need to talk about this to our central command.'

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /