New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs is caught in a same-sex diplomat dilemma after it was found that two officials at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, a man and a woman, are living with their same-sex married partners.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which came into effect 145 years back in 1862, bars sexual intercourse between same-sex people and provides for life sentence for violation.
According to The Telegraph, while the Canadian High Commission has requested Delhi to offer "diplomatic privileges" for the two officials, MEA says the requests cannot be granted. Canada allows gay marriages and the two couples are said to have got married legally in their country.
While the Canadian High Commission has since maintained a silence on the matter, the diplomatic dilemma continues.
The Canadian mission is trying to seek immunity from Indian laws under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963. The convention allows for certain privileges to diplomats and their families on foreign soil.
MEA, however, remains steadfast on its stand, saying the Vienna conventions allow for immunity only from criminal procedure and that the law of the land still applies to the diplomats where they are based.
The gays in India have been pushing for a change in the archaic 1861 law, which was put in place by British colonialists, which criminalises homosexuality. As it stands, those discovered to be having gay sex can be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
They say the law has stood in the way of AIDS education as many people are afraid to come forward about their sexuality for fear of being targeted.
Some legal experts also point out that even the particular law applies only to sexual intercourse, and police cannot hound people simply on the basis of their sexual status.