In an exclusive interview with dna, Lok Sabha MP from north-west Mumbai and Congress general secretary (media) Priya Dutt spoke about Indian Penal Code’s Section 377. She expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s decision on the penal provision, saying the issue is not just about homosexuals but is a human rights issue. Edited excerpts:
dna: Is the Congress taking a risk in sticking its neck out on the sensitive issue of Section 377?
Priya Dutt: I do not think it is a sensitive issue. I feel it is an issue which we need to address sooner or later. It is a law that has been brought in 1869, I think. The times have changed not and the section has to be reviewed now. It cannot be pushed under the carpet. It is not about encouraging homosexuality. It is about human rights. It is about the right to choose.
dna: Given the fact that Indian society is conservative, do you think it will be difficult to push a law that will undo Section 377?
Dutt: It is how you put it. It is not telling or encouraging boys and girls to be homosexuals. That is an innate thing. People are forced to remain in closet their whole lives.
dna: The home ministry and the health ministry had filed opposing affidavits in the courts. How will you reconcile the differences in the government with the statement of the party president?
Dutt: There was a difference of opinion between the two ministries and I can’t comment on that. But we have worked with AIDS patients and sex workers, and it is not true that homosexuality is the only cause of HIV/AIDS..
dna: Is this issue significant because you represent a part of Mumbai, where has a significant population of gay rights people?
Dutt: This is not about the big cities. In the big cities, at least the community can hold morchas in a public forum. The problem is in smaller places. There, they cannot hold a morcha. You will perhaps remember stories from small towns when two lesbians wanted to get married and they had to run away. The problem is not confined to just big cities. It is also not an elite issue. Look at the condition of eunuchs. They come from the poorer class.