Partha Chattejee made the comments after a school in West Bengal forced ten female students to sign a letter confirming that they are lesbians.
The girls had to write the letter after Sikha Sarkar, the headmistress of the school in Kolkata, received “complaints” from other students. The girls then had to give the letters to their parents as punishment.
Sarkar said: “We called those students and they admitted it.
“Considering the sensitive nature of the issue, I asked them to admit it in writing. I have got written admissions from all 10 students.
“Today we called the guardians to apprise them of the issue. Our aim was to discuss the matter with them so that we can bring these girls on the right course through efforts both at home and in school.”
At the time, many were quick to condemn the punishment. Malobiko, the co-founder of Sappho for Equality – The Activist Forum For Lesbian, Bisexual Woman and Transman Rights told the Indian Express that the punishment was “abhorrent.”
“Not only were they singled out on the basis of a few complaints, which could very well have been pranks, I don’t understand what purpose did the whole exercise serve? Are students in co-ed schools asked to write a confession about their heterosexuality when they are seen spending time together?” she said.
Following this, the West Bengal Education Minister, Partha Chattejee told the Indian Express, in a separate article, that the “idea of lesbianism” doesn’t exist in schools because it is against the “ethos of Bengal.”
Chattejee went on to say: “I will ascertain from the school management what prompted them to secure the written admission from the students.”
He further added: “It is a problem at the school level. Young teenagers should not explore sexuality among themselves. That is not the culture of Bengal.”
Despite Chattejee’s comments, equal rights could soon be making their way to India. Last year, a proposal was made which could overhaul the country’s legal system after a report said the current laws aren’t “always equitable and fair and do discriminate on the grounds of sex, gender and sexuality.”
And earlier this year, India’s Supreme Court announced that they would examine whether to decriminalise gay sex. The final decision is expected to come before the end of October.