Bijay Kumar Minj, New Delhi
Updated: September 07, 2018 10:08 AM GMT
Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people celebrate the Sept. 6 verdict of the Indian Supreme Court that decriminalized homosexuality. (Photo by IANS)
India's Supreme Court has ruled in a landmark judgment that homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer a crime, but church officials say that legal validity does not make the practice morally acceptable.
The court on Sept. 6 struck down Section 377-A of the Indian Penal Code that said homosexual acts in public or private were a crime punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years.
The colonial-era law criminalizing consensual unnatural sex was irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary, the court said.
But sexual activity with animals and non-adults remains a punishable offence, it added.
In an official statement, Indian bishops said that although homosexual acts are now legalized, they are not morally acceptable or justified.
"What is legal is not equal to moral acceptability," said a statement issued by Father Stephen Fernandes, secretary to the Indian bishops' office for justice, peace and development.
It said the Catholic Church and many others hold that homosexual behavior is morally unacceptable because "it violates the purpose of human sexuality, which is procreation … This is the moral stand of the Catholic Church."
The church, however, "respects the dignity of homosexuals as persons and human rights flowing from human dignity and personhood, just as the church stands for the same for all without exclusion or discrimination," the statement said.
Indian bishops' conference vice-president Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios of Mavelikara said the "Catholic Church in India neither promotes nor propagates homosexuality. It is always for men and women and a happy family."
Hindu and Muslim religious leaders were also critical of the court verdict.
Hindu spiritual guru Goswami Sushil Ji Maharaj told ucanews.com that homosexuality does not go with the meaning of creation. "God has created men and women for a purpose … but some people think differently now, which is not morally acceptable," he said.
Muhammad Arif, chairman of the Centre for Harmony and Peace in the central state of Uttar Pradesh, said homosexuality and gay culture "are all Westernized, which is correct for some people, but I don't think our society is ready to take it at this moment."
James Valiath, program co-coordinator at the Naz Foundation, one of the petitioners for the welfare of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, said the verdict brings happiness for all who stood for the rights of people.
"I can't express my happiness and joy because our organization has been fighting this case for the last 17 years. Now LGBT people can live peacefully in society with legal acceptance," he said.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.