NEW DELHI: For the first time after it won the eight-year-long battle seeking the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the non-governmental Naz Foundation (India) came face to face with Christian and other faith based organisations in an enthralling debate on Saturday.
Coming close on the heels of Delhi High Court judgement legalising homosexuality among consenting adults by reading down Section 377 of 150-year-old Indian Penal Code (IPC), the open debate at the capital was held to hash over the decision and the hazards or its aftereffects on the society.
Organised by the Commission on Policy, Governance and Public Witness of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the polemical argumentation contained Anuradha Mukherji of NAZ India; Mujtaba Farooq, secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind; Very Rev. MS Sakariah Ramban of the Indian Orthodox Church; Rev. Christopher Rajkumar of the NCCI and others.
Giving the welcome address, Anjna Masih of NCCI said the debate will help in “avoiding the escalation of arguments on homosexuality through awareness and dialogue” and will take a “holistic view keeping the concern of all sections of the society.”
Indeed inarguably the religious leaders keeping all differences apart seemed united as one against the gay ruling, terming it “immoral”, “dangerous” and “unacceptable” to the Indian society and religious communities.
Expressing his views, Mujtaba Farooq minced no words in his condemnation against the Delhi High Court allowing plea of gay rights activists July 2. “Same-sex unions will derange the society and will completely destroy the family order. It is unnatural and it bars procreation,” he said.
While he did praise the Naz Foundation for fighting against discrimination, he vociferously questions “there have been calls for prostitution to be legalised in India, can we do it?” adding “before talking about violations of human rights one must understand the true meaning of ‘freedom’ and where and when it can be applied.”
“Those who are sick we should serve, but those who are going to be sick we should stop and protect. We should not approve this ruling that can cause a disorder in the society and create problems,” he added.
Agreeing with much of it was Rev. Sakariah who touched all religion, social and health aspects and said the “ancient and traditional Orthodox Church is very much against the controversial gay ruling.”
“Religion is to make a healthy society. It is a custodian of morality and has a responsibility of protecting and building a meaningful culture in par with the Indian society and not the West,” he said, asking, “Sadists derive pleasure from cruelty and may be few thieves from stealing, so can we approve this too?”
Facing staunch disapproval of religious leaders was Anuradha Mukherji of Naz India who hailed the Delhi High Court order and said, “The court has only de-criminalised homosexuality and has not legalised it. This verdict will only free the victims (LGBT community) from harassment.”
The discussion heard both views of religious leaders and Naz Foundation and finally came to a conclusion with a serious question posed by Rev. Christopher Rajkumar of NCCI who asked if “faith based organisations that condemned homosexuality took any preventive steps in the past to mediate the issue?”
He urged Churches and other faith based organisations to “take further steps to educate the youths, study the issue and initiate engagement in the need” of people with different sexual orientation.