India supports move against LGBT rights proposal to deny staff benefits to gay couples in the United Nations

India supports move against LGBT rights proposal to deny staff benefits to gay couples in the United Nations

Making its stand impliedly clear, the Govt. of India reportedly joined countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan to support a proposal moved by Russia denying staff benefits to gay couples at the United Nations. The move was however defeated as 80 votes were polled against it while 43 countries, including India, backed it. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were the other countries on India’s side, 37 members abstained and 34 did not vote at all.

Speaking against the proposal, US ambassador to the United Nations said that Russia tried to diminish the authority of the UN secretary general and export to the UN its domestic hostility to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights.”

India went with the Russian proposal as it was based on its domestic laws on same sex relations. Pertinent to note that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 bars same sexs’ social acceptance as unnatural and criminal. After the High Court of Delhi in 2009 quashed the section in Naz Foundation case, in 2013 a two judge bench of the Supreme Court had affirmed its constitutionality. The review petition filed was also dismissed. A curative petition is currently pending to which the court has agreed to hear in an open court. The apex court had observed that the government’s indecision and flip-flop on the issue was to be squarely blamed for the situation. The court said this proved that the Centre wanted the section to remain in the statute. The 2013 decision led to huge hue and cry by human rights groups and others which till date continues.

The UN extended benefits to same sex couples on the basis of laws in their home countries. But last year, secretary general Ban Ki-moon had moved a proposal to extend the benefit to all gay couples irrespective of their domestic laws. The Russian envoy at the UN had strongly advocated in favour of extending the domestic laws to respect cultural differences of the members of the world body. This however may be the reason for India to back the Russian proposal.