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Orlando attack: Nitish's JD-U only party to stand with LGBTs in their grief

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Almost every political party in India condemned the attack on a gay night-club in Orlando, Florida in which over 50 people were killed. However, only one party was honest enough to call the massacre what it is -- an attack on the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. This is the Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United).

This what the party tweeted, reacting to the attack.

If this tweet left any doubts about the party's stand on LGBT rights, they were cleared through another tweet. Responding to a tweet by journalist Barkha Dutt, the JD(U) firmly expressed its commitment to the rights of the LGBT community.

Also read - Why not call the Orlando Killings an LGBT massacre ?

The JD(U) stand is in sharp contrast to not just Indian, but even US politicians, particularly those belonging to the Republican Party, who shied away from mentioning the 'G word'. For instance, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump badgered President Barack Obama to mention "radical Islam" even as he himself failed to mention LGBTs, who were the main victims of the attack.

Why is this significant?

The Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) deserves credit for taking such an unambiguous stand. Even though the party just has 2 MPs in the Lok Sabha, it is the leading the government in Bihar. Also, after his victory in the Bihar Assembly elections last year, Nitish Kumar is increasingly being seen as a potential challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

One also hopes that this would translate into the JD(U) making efforts to strike down the draconian Section 377 that criminalises homosexuality.

Till now, most political parties in India have either stood in favour of the section or, at best, been ambiguous on it.

The BJP, for instance, has mostly been of the view that homosexuality is unnatural, though it has tried to dilute its stand of late.

In 2013, the Congress had urged that Section 377 be amended but it didn't take any steps in that direction.

Last year, Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor had introduced a private member's bill in the Lok Sabha, seeking the decriminalisation of homosexuality, but it was defeated by a margin of 24 votes to 71, with the BJP voting decisively against it.

Praise for JD(U)

According to the figures submitted by the Union government to the Supreme Court in 2012, there are about 2.5 million gay people in India. But they have never been an organised vote bank, perhaps because of the stigma involved.

Therefore the JD(U) has little to gain politically by taking a stand in favour of LGBT rights. On the contrary, it runs the risk of alienating hardline anti-gay sections in various religious communities. Yet, the party took a stand and deservedly got applauded for it.

More in Catch - Pulse massacre: With 50 dead, #Orlando is deadliest mass shooting in US history

Guns, Islamophobia, gay pride: the talking points after Orlando

First published: 13 June 2016, 11:45 IST