Known for his stand on protection of gay rights, German President Joachim Gauck touched a raw nerve in India as he spoke on the issue of “protection of sexual minorities” in a carefully nuanced speech during his first state visit to the country.
He also talked about the “situation of women in India” — a subject that has been frequently discussed in German media since the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape. Speaking at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Thursday, Gauck said, “The main topic we discussed (with representatives of the Indian civil society) was the situation of women in India. This is a sensitive issue that has attracted a lot of international attention.”
“Our conversation also turned to other challenges such as child labour, freedom of religion, and protection of minorities, including sexual minorities. This discussion showed us clearly just how difficult the real-life implementation of the rights guaranteed to all citizens can be in the face of widespread traditional mindsets,” he said.
Gauck is the only world leader to cancel his trip to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in protest the laws enacted by Russia, which criminalises ‘gay propaganda’.
The German President added: “The openness I experienced while speaking with them… is not the usual case on my international travels. I often find cultural taboos make my encounters with others more difficult. Here in India, however, I have got the impression that just about any criticism that a foreign visitor might voice has already been expressed openly by Indians.”
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“You all have good reason to be proud of this openness. Dissent and public debate are a part of democracy. This openness also has its enemies. Suspicion is merited when cultural or religious traditions are invoked to nip discussions of change in the bud,” he said.