Europe continues to lead the way in promoting same-sex equality, with countries electing openly gay leaders to political office. Last week, Leo Varadkar became Ireland's first openly gay Prime Minister, adding yet another feather to the Catholic-dominated country's push for same-sex equality. Varadkar stands out for two reasons. Besides his sexuality, he comes from an ethnic minority.
He is the son of an Indian doctor from Mumbai and an Irish nurse. This also makes him the first ever leader in Ireland from an ethnic minority background. For a country that voted to recognise same-sex marriage only in 2015, Ireland has come a long way. Although his politics leans right of centre, Varadkar has become a force for liberal and progressive causes. He played a crucial role in his country's push for marriage equality. Back in the country of his origin, however, LGBT persons remain vulnerable to legal harassment under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
In December 2013, the Supreme Court overturned a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that decriminalised same-sex acts between consensual adults. In the following month, the apex court dismissed a slew of review petitions against its decision. It is a colonial-era law that criminalises all penile-non-vaginal sexual acts in the garb of prohibiting 'unnatural offences'. Although it applies to all individuals, only homosexual men and transgender persons are targeted.
The law is rooted in the Judeo-Christian religious morality that abhorred non-procreative sex. This provision in the IPC has become a tool, which enforcers of the law implement to harass, extort and blackmail sexual minorities, and prevents them from seeking legal protection from violence; for fear of punishment under the law. The stigma and prejudice continue to perpetuate a culture of silence around homosexuality, which results in denial and rejection at home along with discrimination in workplaces.