Inspired by Trinidad, India weighs ending its anti-gay law

The Trinidad court that overturned the Caribbean nation’s anti-sodomy law has played a role 9,000 miles away, where the Indian Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn the similar anti-gay law there.

LGBTI rights advocates in Trinidad celebrate court ruling overturning that country's anti-sodomy law. (Photo courtesy of LoopTT.com)
LGBTI rights advocates in Trinidad celebrate court ruling overturning that country’s anti-sodomy law. (Photo courtesy of LoopTT.com)

Both nations inherited the law from their years as British colonies.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi, speaking in opposition to the Indian law Section 377 in a court session last week, said it is based on “archaic Judeo-Christian norms of collective morality. This section deems any instance of non-procreative, heterosexual intercourse as a unnatural, and warranting of a maximum punishment of imprisonment for life.”

Rohtagi criticized the language of the law, which criminalizes sexual activity that is “against the order of nature.” First Post quoted him as saying:

“It uses the word ‘order of nature’. What is this order? It is the Victorian morals of 1860s,” argued Rohatgi, emphasised that ancient Indian order was very different. …

“Our order is much older,” Rohatgi said and pointed to Shikhandi in the Mahabharata. [Shikhandi is a character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, who changes gender from female to male.]

Indian Supreme Court
Indian Supreme Court

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar cited the Trinidad ruling as a reason for overturning Section 377. Similarly, the Trinidad court, in its decision to overturn the Trinidad anti-sodomy law, had cited an earlier ruling of the Indian Supreme Court.

Activist Jason Jones, a native of Trinidad living in the U.K., attended the rally. (Photo courtesy of Edwin Sesange)
In London, Trinidadian/British activist Jason Jones celebrates the victory in his lawsuit to overturn Trinidad’s anti-LGBT laws — and pushes for other Commonwealth countries to follow suit. (Photo courtesy of Edwin Sesange)

The online Trinidadian news site LoopTT.com reported that Jason Jones, the appellant in the Trinidad case, welcomed the role his case was playing in India’s Supreme Court:

“I could not be more proud to see my name and Trinidad & Tobago being used to help free MILLIONS of LGBT people in India from the shackles of criminalisation. A great moment for me, my legal team, our Country and our Judiciary,” he said. …
[Indian] Senior advocate Arvind Datar cited the case of Jason Jones vs Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, saying there is nothing against the order of nature in same-sex acts.

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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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