In an unusual event in the capital, diplomats of 27 countries issued a statement on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) rights, as the American centre held a programme attended by several embassies as part of their month-long commemoration of LGBTI “Pride Month”, marking specially for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre in the U.S.
The statement, issued mainly by countries in Europe, North and South America “reaffirmed a strong commitment to equal rights for LGBTI citizens,” even as speakers at the diplomatic event shared personal experiences of dealing with homophobia worldwide.
The comments were significant as India continues to keep its British-era law Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises LGBTI acts. “Every country advances in its own way based on different priorities,” said U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Pelletier at the event on Friday, adding that decriminalising consensual homosexual sex was a “question that India is dealing with.”
Explaining that it was illegal for an LGBT officer to be in the diplomatic service until as recently as 1994, U.K. Deputy High Commissioner Alexander Evans said, “We have openly gay and lesbian ambassadors now.”‘Still a crime in India’
Meanwhile, the European representative admitted that it was “difficult” to broach the issue in India. Referring to two different Supreme Court rulings in 2009, which granted transgenders “all rights under the law” on the one hand, but overturned the High Court judgment that had dismissed Section 377 on the other as “not coherent or co-existent”, the European diplomat said he hoped the “difficulties” for gay communities in India would end. “This cannot happen (with pressure) from outside, from us, but had to come from inside,” he said.
In the joint statement issued by Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, U.K., USA, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain and Sweden amongst others, diplomats recorded that “India has long recognised a community of five to six million third gender Indians as citizens.” However, the statement itself, a first of its kind, made no mention of India’s laws, or discrimination against homosexuals and other LGBTI citizens.
The statement also said that the next month would see more such “pride” events, as diplomats paid respects to 49 people killed and others injured when an American-born IS supporter opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando in the US last week.