Since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court judgement last month that legalized same-sex marriages in that country, there has been some introspection in India about Section 377 that continues to criminalize “unnatural sex”. However, in the past few days this debate has descended into farce, beginning with a media report that claimed Union law minister DV Sadananda Gowda could consider scrapping Section 377. He denied making these comments of course, and then BJP leader Subramanian Swamy claimed his party’s position is that “homosexuality is a genetic disorder”.
In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 2009 Delhi high court verdict that had set aside Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a law framed in 1860.
The top court put the ball in the government’s court for decriminalising consensual sex among homosexuals, arguing it was free to annul the law through legislation.
On Tuesday, the Economic Times quoted Gowda as hinting that the government might consider repealing Section 377, saying "the mood appears to be in favour of it".
But the minister immediately denied these remarks, claiming he had been misquoted.
"I never said that, I was misquoted," Gowda told reporters. "The topic was on USA legalising same-sex marriage. I just said that such decisions would need wide discussions in India."
He went on to berate ET via his Twitter account, telling the newspaper to take its report down immediately. It is no longer accessible online.
"No such issue has come up before the Law Ministry and the government of India. Deliberations will begin only when issues come up. At present we are not even considering any deliberations," Gowda explained.
The dust had barely settled on this issue, when Swamy decided to wade in too.
“I think the law minister was misquoted, our party position has been that homosexuality is a genetic disorder,” he declared.
According to Scroll.in, the BJP has a conflicting view of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community. Many in the ruling party see the potential for goodwill that could come out of supporting the LGBT cause, or genuinely believe in it, and have been vocal about it.
The BJP's Mumbai chief has said that it will support repealing the provision; its party spokesperson Shaina NC said it was for the decriminalising of homosexuality; and then-Health Minister Harsh Vardhan claimed that the government should protect the rights of homosexuals.
This has sometimes prompted hope that the government might actually scrap Section 377.
But for every one of these statements, there is one from the likes of BJP supporter Baba Ramdev who insists homosexuality is a disease that he can cure, or from Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying the BJP will not support these "unnatural" acts.
Louder than these controversial comments is, of course, the silence from the party in Parliament, where its majority in the Lok Sabha could see Section 377 struck down, with Congress support in the Rajya Sabha likely to follow.