After consultation, Cong to bring law to recognise civil unions between LGBTQIA+ couples: Manifesto

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New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) The Congress on Friday said if it comes to power at the Centre, after wide consultations, it will bring a law to recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community.

In its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, the opposition party also said it will encourage reforms of personal laws but asserted that such reforms must be undertaken with the participation and consent of the communities concerned.

The assertion by the Congress on reforms of personal laws but with the consent of the communities concerned comes amid a push by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to bring in a Uniform Civil Code.

The Congress also said it will respect and uphold the fundamental right to practise one's faith and the rights guaranteed to religious minorities under articles 15, 16, 25, 26, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution.

"After wide consultation, Congress will bring a law to recognise civil unions between couples belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community," the manifesto said.

LGBTQIA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual. The additional "+" stands for all of the other identities not encompassed in the short acronym.

"We will also respect and uphold the rights of linguistic minorities guaranteed under Articles 15, 16, 29 and 30 of the Constitution," the Congress said.

The party also promised to encourage and assist students and youngsters belonging to the minority communities to take full advantage of the growing opportunities in education, employment, business, services, sports, arts and other fields.

"We will restore the Maulana Azad Scholarships for study abroad and increase the number of scholarships," the manifesto said.

Noting that the economic empowerment of the minorities is a necessary step for India to realise its full potential, the Congress said it will ensure that banks provide institutional credit to minorities without discrimination.

"We will ensure that the minorities receive their fair share of opportunities in education, healthcare, public employment, public work contracts, skill development, sports and cultural activities without discrimination," the party said.

The Congress said it will ensure that like every citizen of the country, the minorities too have the freedom of choice of dress, food, language and personal laws.

"We will encourage reform of personal laws. Such reform must be undertaken with the participation and consent of the communities concerned," it said.

The Congress promised to meet the long-standing demands for the inclusion of more languages in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.

The manifesto, focusing on five "pillars of justice" and 25 guarantees under those, was released at the AICC headquarters on Friday in the presence of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chiefs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

The Lok Sabha polls are scheduled to be held in seven phases starting April 19 and the counting of votes will be taken up on June 4. PTI ASK RC

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