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Protest against using law `to harass sexual minorities'

By Our Staff Reporter

TIRUCHI, FEB. 28. Several organisations working for the rights of sexual minorities today voiced concern over the "discriminatory laws and practices" enforced through Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, at a meeting organised here as part of the `National Campaign for Sexuality Rights' (NCSR).

The NCSR is working for legal recognition and affirmative policies for eunuchs, particularly from the economically marginalised communities. It has planned to organise public meetings and protests to generate public opinion against Section 377 of the IPCThe meetings are to be in 25 cities and towns in several States, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. A national-level protest is being planned in New Delhi to demand that the issue be raised in Parliament.

`Archaic law'

The NCSR is seeking the repeal of IPC 377, which criminalises adult consensual non-reproductive sexual practices. They charged the authorities with using the law to harass sex workers, homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and eunuchs.

IPC 377 states: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature, with any man, woman or animal shall be punishable with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.

The participants asked how the law could criminalise consensual sexual activities, as this infringed upon the basic rights of privacy and choice. Speakers questioned whether it was proper to continue to hold on to the "archaic law," when the British, who had introduced the law in India, themselves recognised homosexuality and removed the law from their Constitution 50 years ago. The law, though applicable to all, was used mostly against the marginalised communities because of their sexuality, they said.

One of the participants, working with Snehitham, a voluntary organisation, said he was recently picked up by the police at the Central Bus Stand for no apparent reason, while he was with his family. A case was foisted on him, charging him with intimidating the public.

He said he had to spend Rs. 7,000 to clear himself. He asked if there was any law that forbade aravanis (eunuchs) from venturing out of their homes. S. Martin, advocate and consumer activist, advised the eunuchs to air their views on public fora to gain acceptance.

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