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India set to face tough questions at United Nations meet

India faced a series of tough questions at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Thursday, with a host of the 112-member countries questioning it on the penalisation of same-sex sexual rights and the decriminalisation of marital rape, under section 377 and section 375 of the Indian Penal Code respectively.

This apart, several countries questioned India’s commitment to ratifying the UN’s convention on torture, to which it became a signatory in 1997. Surprisingly for India, more than a dozen countries asked for a review of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010.

Countries like Australia, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Portugal, Namibia, Slovenia, among others, asked India to amend section 375 of the IPC to criminalise marital rape. In its reply to these recommendations, the Indian delegation under Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that in its 172nd review of the country’s rape laws, the law commission did not recommend for an amendment to section 375 to criminalise marital rape. India, however, said that the “government has recommended the law commission to deliberate on this issue.”

With India’s stand on granting equal rights to sexual minorities, several countries recommended a repeal of section 377 of the IPC. Countries like Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Israel, Canada, Iceland, Denmark and Spain were some of the countries who raised the issue. In its reply, India said that same-sex sexual relationships were decriminalised, and were then re-criminalised by the Supreme Court, when it dismissed a review petition by the central government in 2014. With a curative petition on the matter to be heard soon, the government said that there will be a review in the matter.

Surprisingly for India, several countries asked it to review FCRA to defend human rights activists. In its recommendations to India, Pakistan registered its protest against India’s stand on Kashmir. Pakistan said India must control its excesses in Kashmir and ban pellet guns, and allow Kashmir to have self-determination with a plebiscite. It found likely support in the US, who also raised the issue of the repeal of Afspa. India reiterated its tough stand, and said J&K is an integral part of India.

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