Bold new BJP? Debate gay rights in Parliament, add to manifesto, says Mumbai leader
A community of four crore people have been affected by criminalising gay sex, says BJP city chief Ashish Shelar, seeking a national debate on the subject.
Seeking a new, nuanced position on homosexuality among his party men, BJP Member of the Legislative Council and president of the Mumbai unit of the BJP Ashish Shelar has shocked many in his party by stating that he supports demands for protection of gay rights, though he is not really promoting gay sex. Given that it's an issue affecting a community of nearly four crore people in India, Shelar's comments have been widely welcomed, reflecting a fresh position in the BJP that has otherwise held a mostly conservative view on the subject.
In fact, soon after the Supreme Court ruling upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that bans gay sex, then BJP president Rajnath Singh had welcomed the SC decision, stating that gay sex was ‘unnatural’ and could not be supported.
Shelar says, "Singh had said that he does not support the promotion of gay sex. But, promotion and protection are two different things. I am talking about protecting their rights for resolving the issue practically. So, in this regard, my views are the same as that of Singh. As far as the party's view is concerned, the party president will take a call on it. As a BJP leader, I am insisting that we must have a national debate on an issue on which a community of four crore people has been raising its voice for some time.”
Shelar, 42, is a resident of Bandra (W) in suburban Mumbai and is a lawyer by profession. He was twice elected as a corporator from 2002 to 20012. In 2009, Shelar lost the Assembly election from the Bandra constituency to Congress MLA Baba Siddiqui by a narrow margin of 1500 votes. He was elected MLC a couple of years back.
“There should be a national debate on the issue. There is a very large number of people who have been campaigning against Section 377. One needs to look at the issue on humanitarian grounds. I think Parliament cannot ignore something that affects a large number of people in the country,” added Shelar, who enjoys the support of large sections of upscale Bandra and Khar. Shelar has been preparing to contest the upcoming Assembly election from Bandra and has also been spending his MLC funds for projects in the locality, said a BJP leader.
Shelar further said that he would take the issue forward with the party’s state and central leadership and also with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting for a national debate on the issue in Parliament.
Asked if he is politicising the issue in view of the upcoming Assembly elections, he was dismissive, saying he has no political agenda behind his comments. “I don’t want to politicize the issue but want to resolve it practically. So, I am for legalizing the gay sex. I will ask for a discussion on the issue in the party’s state executive council to decide whether it should be part of the party's election campaign,” Shelar added.
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