Gen Rawat’s misconception

Gen Rawat’s misconception

LGBTQ members celebrate the Supreme Court verdict which decriminalises consensual gay sex in Bhopal. PTI

Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s views on gay sex and adultery were predictable from an officer who is not known for progressive views on most issues. He has discounted the role of women in the army and has opposed combat roles for them. So, his view that “LGBT issues are not acceptable to us because we are “neither modernised nor westernised’’ does not occasion surprise. He also declared that the army is “conservative’’. There is a misconception behind these statements. It is that being sympathetic to “LGBT issues’’ is being modern and westernised in the wrong sense. He also said that if any issues arose, “we will deal with them under the Army Act’’. But the issue is, what should prevail when the provisions of the Army Act are in conflict with the law of the land. This is relevant after the Supreme Court judgements which provided equal rights to homosexuals and struck down the colonial law on adultery as unconstitutional.

The armed forces are not like other places of work. They have their own standards of conduct based on the need for discipline, efficiency, cooperation and many admirable values. The conduct rules of the forces are derived from them. But they should not be rigid and unchangeable for all times. If the views on the role of women have started changing, those on other matters also need to change. Section 45 of the Army Act talks about “unbecoming conduct of army officers’’ and says that any person guilty of any disgraceful conduct of “cruel, indecent or unnatural kind’’ will be subjected to court-martial. Rawat says gay sex was not specifically mentioned because it was unknown when it was framed. One should think homosexuality is older than armies.

The Supreme Court struck down Section 377 as “irrational, arbitrary and incomprehensible’’ as it fetters the rights of the LGBT community. It also held that there is nothing unnatural about affection between individuals and social morality cannot violate their constitutional rights. These are important and relevant in the context of Gen. Rawat’s assertions about the policy on LGBT issues in the army. The army is not an island and is not impervious to the rulings of the Supreme Court. Most modern armies, like those of the US, the UK, Russia and Israel, have opened their doors to gay persons. In view of the court’s judgement, it would be a violation of the fundamental rights of individuals if they are denied entry into the forces on the basis of sexual orientation or social morality. The Army laws may need to be reinterpreted or revised in the light of the court’s judgement. 

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