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Religious groups chant praise

New Delhi, Dec. 11: In a rare alliance, Hindu, Muslim and Christian leaders today spoke in one voice — to welcome the Supreme Court verdict upholding a law that criminalises gay sex.

“Homosexuality represents a threat to traditional Indian culture. We are very happy with the verdict as homosexuality is a mental disorder and it is against our rich culture,” said Zafaryab Jilani, member of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board.

VHP general secretary Champak Rai echoed him. “It is a criminal offence and the apex court has done a great job by upholding the law. Homosexuality is nothing but perversion and moral degradation and should never be allowed in our society. We are very happy with the verdict,” Rai said.

The Muslim personal law board, Hindu spiritual leaders, the Utkal Christian Council and the Apostolic Churches Alliance had moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi High Court order decriminalising gay sex. In a landmark judgment in July 2009, the high court had excluded adult consensual gay sex, done in private, from the scope of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Bishop Sam Varghese, general overseer of Apostolic Churches Alliance, welcomed the apex court verdict.

“We are very happy that the apex court took up the matter and passed a favourable judgement,” he said over phone from Kerala. “We are not against homosexual people but their behaviour which is against nature and the Bible does not approve of it. It is nothing but perverse,” Varghese said.

Yoga televangelist Ramdev, several of whose followers were among the petitioners against the high court verdict, described homosexuality as a “disease”. “The Supreme Court has respected the sentiments of the various religious communities of India. Today they are talking of homosexuality, tomorrow they will talk of having sex with animals,” Ramdev said.

S.Q.R. Ilyas, another member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said: “These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural and create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned.”

On the same side as the religious leaders was Amod Kanth, general secretary of the NGO Prayas, who argued that the Supreme Court verdict was good for children.

“In India, there is no protection for sexual offences against a male or male child except for Section 377 of the IPC. It is also a protection against unnatural sex and bestiality,” said Kanth, also the former chairperson of the Delhi Child Welfare Committee.

Decriminalisation of gay sex would have denied a child’s basic rights to family and impeded his normal development, he said. “Only a man and a woman constitutes a family and contribute to the holistic development of a child, which is not possible without a father and a mother,” Kanth said. He pointed out that the United Nations Convention for Rights of Children, to which India was also a signatory, says that right to family was a child’s basic right.

Prayas and the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights were also among the petitioners against the high court verdict.