12/14/2009, 00.00
INDIA

Indian religious leaders ask government to decriminalise but not legalise homosexuality

Nirmala Carvalho
Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Sikh leaders send a memorandum to Prime Minister Singh. A ruling by the High Court in New Delhi is creating a lot of “confusion” that represents a “grave danger to the social fabric of society.” The Church promotes meetings in Mumbai to bring clarity to the ongoing debate.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Plans to decriminalise homosexuality is creating “confusion” and represents a “grave danger to the social fabric of society,” a view shared by Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim leaders at an interfaith roundtable promoted by Mgr Vincent M. Concessao, archbishop of New Delhi.

Leaders from India’s major religion sent a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in which they express their concern over the direction the debate over the decriminalisation of homosexuality is taking. This comes after the High Court in New Delhi declared Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional on 3 July (see Nirmala Carvalho, “For Indian Church homosexuality is not a crime but cannot become a ‘social norm’,” in AsiaNews, 2 July 2009)

In addition to the moral aspects of the issue, religious leaders are baffled by the “lies” that pass as truth. They are concerned that decriminalisation might lead to legalisation with associated rights like marriage, paternity and adoption that some consider a direct and logical consequence of the High Court decision.

If on the one hand, the court can be praised for putting a stop to discrimination that treats homosexuals like criminals; on the other, its decision is also seen as a betrayal of the country’s cultural tradition and an attack against the principles and values on which society is based.

The Indian Church has spoken out on several occasions in a debate characterised by one-sidedness and a lack of clarity.

Recently, Mgr Agnelo Gracias, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai and president of the Commission for the family of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), has promoted a series of conferences and roundtables on the ‘Current confusions concerning sexual orientation’.

During the meetings, speakers addressed the legal, psychological and moral aspects of Article 377 and proposed revisions.

At the roundtable in Mumbai, Mgr Gracias laid down the terms of the debate. For him, to “decriminalise” does not mean “legalise” and saying that something is “legally permissible is not the same as saying that it is morally acceptable”.

During the conferences, which are open to the public, speakers have insisted that whilst ending the criminalisation of homosexuals is an important goal for Indian society, it does not remove the fact that the latter objectively engage in acts that are against natural law and morality.

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