Indian media support bid to decriminalise gay sex

An Indian gay rights activist holds up a placard during a protest after the country's top court ruled that a colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality will remain in effect in India in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.
Image caption The Supreme Court verdict has sparked a wave of protests across India

Media in India have welcomed the government's willingness to decriminalise homosexuality after the country's top court upheld a law which criminalised gay sex on Wednesday.

Newspapers feel remarks made by federal ministers as well as the president of the ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi will prove to be a shot in the arm for gay activists, who have been saddened by the verdict.

Headlines on Friday reflect the optimism in the press, a day after the media criticised the Supreme Court's verdict.

"Sonia, PC (Finance Minister P Chidambaram) root for gay rights, law may change," reads the front-page headline in the Hindustan Times.

The Times of India's headline reads: "Government, Congress on overdrive to scrap ruling on gay sex rights."

Papers feel the government has been "stirred into action" on the back of strong remarks made by the ministers and Sonia Gandhi and is contemplating an ordinance to reverse the court order.

This "bold new Congress is a departure from its old 'safe' self" and the "firmness is an expansion of its inclusive politics, which now includes sexual minorities", says the Hindustan Times.

The Times of India, in another article, also welcomes the government's attempts in a front-page commentary.

"This paper welcomes the stand taken by the Congress and its cabinet ministers and hopes that the government moves quickly to reverse the judgement… Our constitution is built on the foundation of liberty and equality, and should apply to all citizens regardless of what they do consensually and in private," it says.

The paper goes on to say that "the regressive 153-year-old law enacted by our colonial masters... prescribes life imprisonment for homosexuals, thus equating them with murderers. Effectively, it makes no distinction between love and hate".

Street food festival

In international news, the chief minister of Pakistan's Punjab Province, Shahbaz Sharif, has called for resolving bilateral issues with India through talks instead of brushing them "under the carpet", The Indian Express reports.

Mr Sharif, brother of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, met Indian PM Manmohan Singh in Delhi on Thursday.

He urged more steps to improve ties, calling for trade to be combined with "strategic issues" and said exchange of cultural troupes was "not enough."

Mr Sharif said ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in Kashmir were also discussed, the report added.

The visiting leader also took a ride in the famous Delhi metro and visited the metro museum at the Patel Chowk station in central Delhi, the NDTV website reports.

Staying with foreign relations, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on a four-day visit to India during which he is scheduled to hold talks with PM Singh on military aid, reports The Hindu.

Meanwhile, food lovers have a reason to rejoice as a three-day street food festival offering dishes from 20 states will start in the capital from 20 December, reports The Times of India.

Organisers say the focus will be on hygiene since there are concerns about the quality of street food in India despite its massive popularity.

"People are scared to have roadside food because of hygiene and water issues. By properly training vendors, we want to bust this myth and bring street food on par with other culinary offerings," Sangeeta Singh, programme manager at National Association of Street Vendors of India, which is organising the event, told the paper.

And finally, writers and artists have been invited to live at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Palace) for a month "to seek inspiration from the sprawling estate", reports The Hindu.

President Pranab Mukherjee announced the "unique initiative" on his birthday on Wednesday, it adds.

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