Lok Sabha members introduce private member Bills for the benefit of the LGBTQIA community

The Supreme Court of India had decriminalised homosexuality in 2018, but same-sex couples in the country are still not allowed to marry.

April 04, 2022 07:23 pm | Updated 07:23 pm IST

A gay rights activist waits outside the Supreme Court before the 2018 judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2018. File

A gay rights activist waits outside the Supreme Court before the 2018 judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2018. File | Photo Credit: AP

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) member Supriya Sule on Friday introduced a private member Bill in Lok Sabha to legalise same-sex marriage in the country, while Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) MP DNV Senthilkumar S introduced another private member Bill that talked about the rights of the LGBTQIA community, enabling them to live with dignity.

The Bill introduced by Ms. Sule seeks to amend the Special Marriage Act, 1954. Stating the reasons for introducing the Bill, Ms. Sule said that although homosexuality was decriminalised in the country in 2018 when Supreme Court struck down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), LGBTQIA individuals are still unable to marry and have families. Members of the community are also unable to exercise rights like succession, maintenance, pensions and so on, that are usually accorded to heterosexual couples.

LGBTQIA individuals still face persecution, discrimination and social stigma within society, the draft legislation noted.

According to Ms. Sule, the Bill will ensure that Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution are upheld. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution ensures equality before the law and states, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Article 21 deals with the protection of life and personal liberty, and says, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.

The Bill seeks to amend the Special Marriage Act to recognise marriages between two males of at least 21 years of age or between two females of at least 18 years of age as legal. It also proposes to replace the words “husband” and “wife” with “spouse”.

Dr. Senthilkumar’s Bill asks the government to frame a national policy for the protection and welfare of the rights of the LGBTQIA community. This includes granting rights to marriage, adoption, guardianship, surrogacy, and prohibition against discrimination at workplace, and in housing.

The Bill invokes the 2011 United Nations Human Rights Council resolution recognising LGBT rights, urging all countries to enact laws that protect the basic rights of the community. It also points out the rampant homophobia in Indian society that “undermines the dignity and privacy” of the members of the LGTBQIA community.

In 2018, the Supreme Court of India had struck down Section 377 of the IPC, saying that it will “not apply to consensual same-sex acts between homosexuals, heterosexuals, lesbians and other sexual minorities” but same-sex marriages are still not considered legal in India.

A private member Bill is a draft legislation introduced by a parliamentarian who is not a minister.

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