Indian churches back decriminalisation of same sex relationships

By staff writers
July 22, 2018

As Indians await a Supreme Court ruling on whether gay sex should be decriminalised, the National Council of Churches in India  and some other faith leaders have issued a declaraion backing the reform They have also urged greater acceptance of sexual and gender minorities.

The National Consultation on Interfaith Engagement with Human Gender, Sexes and Sexuality Diversities and National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) declared that “human beings with diverse genders, sexes and sexuality minorities are God’s creation and are a part of natural order.”

This “affirmation is done in the context of LGBTQHI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Hijada, Intersexual) phobia that attempts to criminalize gender, sexual and sexuality minorities in India.” Hijada is one of the terms used for South Asian people born but not living as male, sometimes regarded as a ‘third sex’.

The declaration continued, “We believe that love is the basis of all religions and hatred can have no place. However, historically there have been dominant interpretations that have been used to perpetuate oppressive systems against these minorities. As a result, gender, sexual and sexuality minorities are often rejected and alienated by many religious leaders and faith communities…

“Through the deliberations of this consultation, we have come to recognise the innate ability of each faith community to understand, accept and celebrate gender, sexual and sexuality identities. We thereby recognise the presence of such identities within each faith community and encourage faith leaders to acknowledge, accept, nurture and continue conversations in the most inclusive manner.”

As well as removal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which forbids sex between men, they called for the scrapping of state laws harmful to minorities.

This built on an earlier statement in January 2018  urging decriminalisation and a rethinking of attitudes. The National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities of NCCI stated, “Homosexuality and homo-eroticism have been practiced in India from time immemorial…

“The understanding of sexual ethics of the British colonial administration was deeply influenced by Victorian morality and its particular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian scripture and theology. So, the British authorities considered tolerance towards homosexuality as a social evil, and based on heteronormative principles, they initiated stringent measures to criminalize homoeroticism as part of their mission to civilise the heathens in India…

“However, in 1967, the United Kingdom repealed the Sodomy laws, and the Church of England played a significant role in it…

“In the contemporary context of growing fascism, it is important for us to understand the Sodomy Law as legal codes of fascism as they provide the State the power to intervene, invade, regulate, and monitor even the intimate spheres of human life...

“As followers of the non-conformist Christ, the one who consistently questioned unjust and non-compassionate traditions of public morality, our call is to reject all laws that demonise, criminalise, and exclude human beings, and work to facilitate just inclusive and loving communities.”

* Read the  National Consultation on Interfaith Engagement with Human Sexuality and Gender Diversity here  and the Januaruy 2018 statement here

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