Global outcry against anti-gay Indian court ruling

India’s attorney general, Goolam E. Vahanvati, says it was a “tragedy” that the country’s Supreme Court ruled Dec. 11 to reimpose an anti-homosexuality law on 17 percent of the world’s population.

He is not alone.

Indian legal minister Kapil Sibal (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Indian legal minister Kapil Sibal (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

India’s law minister, Kapil Sibal, said that the government, which supported the 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that the Supreme Court overturned, will push to make homosexual activity legal again. That could be done either by a Supreme Court review of the latest decision or by passage of a new law in Parliament.

Other opponents of the return of the British colonial-era law that imposed up to a 10-year prison sentence for intercourse “against the order of nature” included:

  • Sonia Gandhi, chief of India’s governing Congress Party and perhaps India’s most powerful politician, who urged Parliament to “address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India.” In a statement, she opposed the “archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in the constitution.”
  • Indian film star Aamir Khan (Photo courtesy of WIkipedia)
    Indian film star Aamir Khan (Photo courtesy of WIkipedia)

    The Times of India, the world’s largest-circulation English language newspaper, which said the court’s decision “to re-impose the 19th century ban on homosexuality is not just tragic” but also “a setback to gender justice, human rights and even public health.”

  • The Indian Express, which said the ruling was “sad and shameful” because the law was, known as Section 377, was “mostly used to harass, humiliate and deny freedom to consenting homosexual adults.”
  • Indian film star Aamir Khan, who said the ruling “feels very intolerant and violative of basic human rights. It’s a shame.”
  • United Nations human rights commissioner Navi Pillay, a South African of Indian Tamil origin, who said the court ruling was “a significant step backwards for India and a blow for human rights.”
  • Many celebrities and several Indian companies, described in typical BuzzFeed style in the article “15 Heartening Ways Indian Brands And Bollywood Stars Are Fighting For LGBT Rights.”

Successful requests for review of Indian Supreme Court rulings are rare, legal analysts say, but might be possible in this case, because Justice G.S. Singhvi, who made the ruling, retired immediately after it was published.

India Day of Rage logo 12 2013Protests have included:

  • “Gay for a Day!” on Facebook:  “All you have to do is change your profile picture to one in which you are kissing someone from your gender in protest of the Supreme Court of India’s ruling that criminalizes homosexuality.”
  • Global Day of Rage: Protests planned for Dec. 15 in Kolkata, Toronto, Kinshasa, Mumbai, London, Cambridge, Chennai, Delhi, Ann Arbor, and Sydney, and probably more locations.
  • AllOut online petitions expressing support to LGBT people in India — in English and French.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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