LGBTI activists and allies in India today launched a petition seeking the repeal of Section 377, the country’s colonial-era law which provides for as much as a life sentence for anyone convicted of voluntary “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.”
That law had been overturned by the Delhi High Court in 2009, but it was reinstated by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013 in a judgment named for a New Delhi-based professional astrologer who challenged the Delhi ruling.
The petition is directed to Narendra Modi, prime minister of India; Rajnath Singh, Union home minister; and Sadananda Gowda, minister of law and justice.
On [Dec. 11, 2015], which marks the second anniversary of the Suresh Kumar Koushal judgement of the Supreme Court of India, which effectively recriminalised LGBT persons, the union government needs to be reminded of its constitutional responsibility to decriminalise the lives of millions of LGBT citizens.
The lives of LGBT citizens are not a political football to be tossed from the judiciary to parliament and from parliament to the judiciary. It is time the government owned its responsibility!
In this connection, the petition … argues that constitutional morality enjoins that the government takes action to repeal s.377. …
Please circulate widely and get as many signatures as we can of groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds including persons from the fields of law, politics, activism, academia, artists and others.
Similarly, Sukhdeep Singh, editor-in-chief of the Indian magazine Gaylaxy, writes about the petition:
We would like to bring to your attention a matter of the utmost urgency concerning the right to live with dignity of millions of citizens of India, namely those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT). …
“It is the responsibility of parliament to ensure that the rights of all sections of the Indian people including LGBT Indians are protected,” the petition urges …
“When it comes to a question of the right to dignity of a significant section of the Indian population, surely it is incumbent upon the Union of India to discharge their constitutional responsibility and introduce a bill to repeal Section 377,” the petition reads. Imploring PM Modi to act, the petition says: “It is your responsibility as the Prime Minister to lessen popular prejudice, allow for free expression of ideas and repeal criminal laws which hamper and impede the right to free expression of millions of LGBT Indians.”
The petition ends with the following demands:
- Introduce a bill in parliament to repeal Section 377
- Amend Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code so that protection from rape is extended to all persons regardless of gender or sexuality in line with the Justice Verma Committee recommendations. [The Verma Committee was an advisory panel that recommended widespread reform of Indian rape laws after a gang rape and murder in 2012.]
Within less than a day of being posted online, the petition had more than 400 signatures and 140 comments, including “Please give my dignity back!” and “Repeal section 377. I want my children to be proud and open about who they are.”
- Constitutional Responsibility to Repeal Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (Dec. 11, 2015, Orinam)
- Sign Online Petition Urging PM Modi to Fulfill His Constitutional Responsibility by Repealing Section 377 (Dec. 11, 2015, Gaylaxy)
- India turns back the clock, restores anti-gay law (December 2013, 76crimes.com)
- 25 Powerful Pictures From India’s Largest Gay Pride Parade Since Section 377 Was Reinstated (buzzfeed.com)
- Roman Catholic leaders in India support LGBT rights (76crimes.com)
- India: Growing LGBTI openness, despite legal setback (76crimes.com)
- US State Department urges India to end anti-gay law (pinknews.co.uk)