Decriminalization of Sec 377 Not Valid For The Indian Defence Force

Decriminalization of section 377 brought hopes for the LGBT+ community to live with dignity and you may think that now India is finally on the right track, finally leaving the orthodox mentality behind. But for those of you who don’t know, there are laws still in existence in India which prohibit homosexuality. In Indian Defence Force, homosexuality still remains a prosecutable offence under three 1950s laws, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act.

Indian army chief, Bipin Rawat announced on Thursday that homosexual intercourse and adultery would now not be tolerated within the military ranks, months after a landmark courtroom ruling struck down colonial-era prohibitions towards homosexuality and infidelity.

Image courtesy – indiatoday.com

In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalized consensual unnatural sex, ruling that it violated rights to equality.

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General Rawat said to the journalists when requested concerning the courtroom verdicts at an annual press conference in Delhi, “the military is conservative. The military is a circle of relatives.”

When a specific query raised by the reporter in the press conference, General Rawat responded that the army has its own law regarding homosexuality. “A soldier on the border cannot be worried about his family back home. The same is on the LGBT issue. In the army we cannot accept it,” the Indian Army chief argued.

Image courtesy – sikh24.com

He added, “We are not above the country’s law but when you join the Indian Army, some of the rights and privileges you enjoy are not what we have. Some things are different for us, but we are certainly not above the Supreme Court. We will have to see how we take a call, let us also see how it comes into the society, whether it’s accepted or not. I can’t say what will happen two years down the road.”

Although gay sex has been decriminalized in India, in Indian armed forces, homosexuality still remains a prosecutable offence under three 1950s laws, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act.

Under the military act, both homosexuality and adultery are punishable offences with prison time of as much as 10 years. There aren’t any statistical figures on homosexuality within the military. However, it is displayed through media experiences that military has been more concerned towards adultery – outlined as “stealing the affection of a brother officer’s spouse”. The accused are tried by army courts. A few months back a brigadier was found guilty of having a romantic relationship with a colonel’s wife. He was immediately dismissed from the service and sent to 3 years in prison.

In November last year, a military court sentenced a Colonel to two years ‘ loss of seniority in pension and awarded him a “severe reprimand” for “unbecoming conduct” after he was found alone with a Lt-Colonel’s wife in the middle of the night at the Bhatinda military station in Punjab.

According to a study on 100 countries around the world for LGBT Military index which launched in 2014, it was found that 50 countries allowed the people to serve in armed forces regardless of their sexual orientation and 50 countries do not.  Just 24 countries allow people to serve regardless of gender identity, with 76 countries maintaining a ban on transgender troops, including the United States.

In July 2017, United State’s President, Donald Trump abruptly announced on Twitter that all the transgender service people would be purged from armed forces and they won’t be allowed to enlist, claiming they were a burden on the military and they disrupt the ranks and add medical costs that undermine troop readiness. The resulting policy has been repeatedly challenged in courts, and trans service personnel are currently able to continue serving as the policy continues to be subject to legal action.


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