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Bollywood star: The UK must stand up against colonial anti-gay laws abroad

Joseph McCormick September 5, 2014

A Bollywood star has called on the UK to do more to stand up against colonial anti-gay laws abroad.

Celina Jaitly spoke to PinkNews at an event held in support of LGBT legal organisation the Human Dignity Trust which was hosted by MP and former Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward at his home.

Jaitly, also a Free and Equal Champion by the UN in 2012, told PinkNews that although the UK does speak out against anti-gay laws in countries such as Uganda and India, it must do more to say “these are old, archaic laws, and they need to go.”

The former Miss India said: “Unfortunately in my country we have Section 377, an old colonial British law which still exists. It was repealed just four years ago, and now it has been reinstated. This is very unfortunate.

“This law is used to blackmail, harass, make LGBT people victims of violent crime and we need to take this law away. This contradicts the right to life which is guaranteed by the Constitution of India.”

She continued: “I feel that it is great that Britain has made changes for LGBT people, but since these colonial laws come from Britain, more involvement from would be wonderful in countries like India and Uganda. Britain has to be the one to stand up and continuously say ‘these are archaic laws, old laws and these need to go’. Cultures need to evolve with time.”

When asked whether she thought Britain was doing enough now to tackle these laws, she said: “I feel that they are doing their bit. It’s not easy with so many things going on in the world, and it is definitely not easy running a country like the great nation that the UK is, but more involvement would definitely be better.

“Every country has a promise to each and every citizen – the right to life, the right to protection. If you as a leader take that away from your citizens, you do not deserve to be the government of that country. Government is of the people, for the people and by the people. So you have to be a responsible government. Laws cannot be selective – they have to be the same for everyone.

“This is not about gay rights, it is about basic human rights. Every human being in this world irrespective of their country, culture, caste, race, sexuality, deserves equal rights.”

Speaking on the Bollywood industry, Jaitly said gay people were able to be open, saying: “Within the Bollywood industry it is okay to be gay, but it is very close-knit. The thing is when a law exists which criminalises you as a gay person, you don’t have a right to life. Who do you tell? How do you be yourself? You are living in a prison. You may be free, you may have money, but you are living in a prison. It is not life.

On her work with the UN, she said: “I was appointed as a Free and Equal Champion nearly a year and a half ago, and I have been a gay rights activist for the past twelve years. The UN has given me an amazing platform to reach out. When it comes to a country such as India, change often begins with difficult conversations.”

“The whole idea for me was to have the right platform to start these difficult conversations in an easy manner with the right backing. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

She recently said she would not stop fighting for LGBT rights, despite threats on her life and the lives of her children.

Jaitly was recently included in the UN’s new pro-gay Bollywood music video, which was introduced in response to last December’s return of India’s sodomy law which bans gay sex.

More: Africa, Asia, Bollywood, celina jaitly, Human Dignity Trust, India, Uganda, UN, united nations

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