|(Photo Courtesy: blogs.reuters.com)|
A Church official in New Delhi has spoken out in support of gay rights after India's Supreme Court refused to review its earlier verdict criminalizing gay sex in the country.
The two-member bench on Tuesday rejected the review petition filed by the federal government and the Naz Foundation seeking a stay on the court’s December judgment making gay sex an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The Supreme Court had set aside a 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalizing gay sex.
“The church is against making gay sex a criminal act. These people are human beings and have some rights and entitlements. They should not be barred from any act and tagged as criminals,” Father Charles Irudayam, secretary of the Indian bishops’ justice, peace and development, told ucanews.com.
The priest said "it is our duty to show pastoral care for such people."
Following the court's December ruling, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai and president of the Indian bishops’ conference, said that the church has "never considered gay people criminals."
"As Christians, we express our full respect for homosexuals. The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalization of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse," Cardinal Gracias said.
Gautam Bhan, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community member, said the court decision was disappointing.
“It is a very disheartened step. It has overlooked the ample evidence, including Section 377, provided by the petitioners regarding our rights being violated in the country,” Bhan told ucanews.com.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes homosexuality or “unnatural” sex irrespective of the consent of the people involved.
Bhan said that the LGBT community had received unprecedented support and acceptance from other Indians. The court has "misread the people’s mood," he said.
Terming it as a regressive order, Anjali Gopalan, founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation, a New Delhi-based NGO working on HIV/AIDS and sexual health issues, told ucanews.com they will appeal the Supreme Court’s latest decision.
Protesting the order, hundreds of LGBT members participated in a candle-light march in New Delhi yesterday and vowed to continue their fight for equal rights.
Gopalan vowed to continue protesting and generating awareness about the issue.
India: Advocacy groups decry ruling as unjust and dangerous.