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India seems ready to overturn its anti-gay law

India seems ready to overturn its anti-gay law

Protest targeting India's anti-gay law, Section 377 (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)
Protest targeting India’s anti-gay law, Section 377 (Mujeeb Faruqui photo courtesy of Hindustan Times)

The Indian Supreme Court today set the stage for overturning the country’s colonial-era law against sex “against the order of nature,” with three Supreme Court judges saying that no one should have to live in fear because of their sexuality.

India’s NDTV.com reported:

Supreme Court To Revisit 2013 Verdict Criminalising Gay Sex

New Delhi: Whether homosexuality should be a crime in India will be reexamined by the Supreme Court, which had in 2013 restored a controversial British-era ban on gay sex.

No one should have to live in fear because of their sexuality, said three Supreme Court judges including Chief Justice Dipak Misra today, asking a larger group of judges to review Section 377, the 1861 law that criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”.

Responding to a legal challenge by five high-profile petitioners who say they are living in fear of being punished, the judges said: “What is natural to one may not be natural to others.”

See Also
Protesters hold up signs prior to passage of a new Indonesian criminal code that will ban sex outside marriage, cohabitation between unmarried couples, insulting the president, and expressing views counter to the national ideology, outside parliament in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 5, 2022. (Willy Kurniawan photo courtesy of Reuters)

Indian protesters in 2013 sought the repeal of the anti-gay law, Section 377
Indian protesters in 2013 sought the repeal of the anti-gay law, Section 377 (Photo courtesy of TheStar.com)

The report’s summary of the situation included:

  • Top government sources told NDTV they would “go by the court” and not push for criminalising gay sex, commenting that decriminalisation is a global trend.
  • The Supreme Court [stated that] “law can’t trample or curtail the inherent right embedded in an individual under Article 21, the right to life and liberty.”
  • Under the law, those convicted under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code face up to 10 years in jail.
  • The top court acted on the petition by Aman Nath, the owner of Neemrana hotels, Navtej Johar, a classical dancer, celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia, former editor Sunil Mehra and restauranteur Ayesha Kapur.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court had cancelled a Delhi high court order that had decriminalized homosexuality by overturning the outdated law and said it was the job of parliament to decide on scrapping laws.
  • That decision needs to be reconsidered because of constitutional issues, said the Supreme Court.
  • In 2009, the Delhi High Court had described Section 377 as a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. It had responded to a petition by Naz Foundation, which has fought for almost a decade for gay rights.
  • Although prosecution under section 377 is not common, gay activists say the police use the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.

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View Comments (3)
  • And once it is overturn, how long will it take to turn the hearts of religious leaders and the local population into accepting the rights of others. It is easy to change laws, but much harder to change hearts and beliefs of man kind

    • About a decade I’d say. Opinions are changing and fast. A survey by Varkey Foundation found that 53% of 18-21 group support SSM. So in course of time, the support should increase further.

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