Petition seeks repeal of India’s anti-gay Section 377

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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.

This week, human rights lawyer Ranganathan Gowthaman writes for the Chennai-based LGBTI organization Orinam’s blog:

Logo of Orinam
Logo of Orinam, which opposes Section 377.

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:

Sukhdeep Singh, editor-in-chief of Gaylaxy magazine. (Photo by Tara Chattopadhyay courtesy of
Sukhdeep Singh, editor-in-chief of Gaylaxy magazine. (Photo by Tara Chattopadhyay courtesy of

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.”


Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.


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