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International News Highlights — Mar. 17, 2023

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Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — Photo by Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — Photo by Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Indian Supreme Court will hold Gay marriage hearings in April
As a five-judge bench in India's Supreme Court is preparing to hear final arguments for and against legally recognizing same-sex marriages, interest groups are weighing in on the issue, which is controversial in spite of the progress India has made on LGBT rights.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government said that it opposes the idea. In particular, Solicitor General Tusha Mehta argued to the court: "When the question of granting recognition — legal sanction to a relationship — is concerned, that is essentially a function of the legislature and for more than one reason."

"The parliament will have to debate and take a call whether in the view of societal ethos and several other factors which go into lawmaking, whether we would like this institution to be recognized."

Uganda considers harsher penalties for "same-sex conduct"
A new bill introduced in Uganda's parliament would criminalize "same-sex conduct" even further than it already is in the East African country, lengthening prison sentences and outlawing the "promotion of homosexuality."

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the bill follows up on the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was struck down by a court before it could go into effect. Both bills prohibit acts such as touching another person "with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality," and those found guilty could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

HRW's Uganda researcher, Oryem Nyeko, said the bill was a blatant violation of human rights on multiple levels.

"One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalizes people simply for being who they are, as well as further infringing on the right to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda," Nyeko said.

"Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights and stop targeting LGBT people for political capital."

Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud disagreed, saying, "We are of the considered view that it would be appropriate that the issues raised are resolved by a bench of five judges of this court."

In other words, the court thought that it was in fact their job to interpret the country's laws.

Not long after Chandrachud's comments, the powerful Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) announced that it officially backs the government's position, though one of its leaders, Mohan Bhagwat, has said in the past that the LGBTQ community "should have their own private and social space, as they are humans and have the right to live as others."