India signals support for legalising gay sex

Published: July 11, 2018
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In this file photo taken on June 24, 2018, an Indian supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community takes part in a pride parade in Chennai. PHOTO: AFP

In this file photo taken on June 24, 2018, an Indian supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community takes part in a pride parade in Chennai. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: The Indian government on Wednesday signalled it would not oppose a move to decriminalise homosexuality, as the country’s top court chewed over appeals to overturn a colonial-era ban.

Section 377 of the penal code, a relic from 1860s British legislation, bans gay acts as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and allows for jail terms of up to life.

The Supreme Court began hearing petitions against the ban on Tuesday, in the latest twist in a legal tussle between social and religious conservatives and more liberal Indians.

Setting out New Delhi’s position on Wednesday, senior government lawyer Tushar Mehta said Delhi would leave whether to decriminalise homosexuality “to the wisdom” of the court.

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The court on its part also appeared to be in favour of overhauling the archaic law, according to the NDTV news network.

“We don’t want a situation where two homosexuals enjoying a walk on Marine Drive (a Mumbai boulevard) should be disturbed by the police and charged under Section 377,” Justice J. Chandrachud, who is a part of the bench hearing the matter, was quoted as saying by the channel.

The Delhi High Court effectively decriminalised gay sex in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated legal sanctions four years later after a successful appeal by religious groups.

The Indian government has offered mixed messages on the issue in the past, with some ministers speaking out in favour of Section 377, only to be contradicted by others.

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Gay sex has long been taboo in conservative India particularly in rural areas where nearly 70 percent of people live and homophobia is widespread. Some still regard homosexuality as a mental illness.

According to official data, 2,187 cases under Section 377 were registered in 2016 under the category of “unnatural offences”. Seven people were convicted and 16 acquitted.

Globally 72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships, according to a 2017 report by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Vineeth
    Jul 12, 2018 - 3:55AM

    Homosexuality was known and accepted in ancient India. Evidences of this can be seen in the erotic sculptures in temples of Khajuraho, and texts such as Kamasutra. Paradoxically, much of the so-called morality championed by the Hindutva brigade was taught to them by the colonial rulers and Bible-toting missionaries with their Victorian morals, who came along and branded the open display of sexuality as wrong and immoral.Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Jul 12, 2018 - 11:42AM

    Hindus have a rich heritage and many Gay characters in their mythology like Shikandi or Brihannala . the third gender is neither new nor something negative to talk about . they deserve equal respect and honour in society . Recommend

  • traveller
    Jul 12, 2018 - 1:01PM

    We are not GOD so we can not interfere in anyone’s personal life. Everyone tries to defender of religion in Pakistan that’s why it is in such state of violence.

    @Bunny Rabbit Those were Trans. not the gay. There is a difference in both thingsRecommend

  • indian
    Jul 12, 2018 - 2:35PM

    I’m pretty sure this won’t be printed.When world is heading to remove social injustices but some people still want to live in dark ages.For ages society brushed down oppression on LGBT people right to live and choose a partner under carpet.Appreciate GOI stand to leave the decision to SC and also modern indian views.But our neighbour on western side still want to follow customs of 700AD.India removed Sati,child marriage,triple talaq and now one more mile to go ..approving LGBT rights and removing Nikah halala, muslim female genital mutilation ,polygamy.Waiting for them to be real one day.Im really proudnof my country.Recommend

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