India’s Supreme Court legalizes gay sex in historic ruling

India Legalizes Gay Sex

Revelers celebrate during Delhi Queer Pride in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 29, 2015. India’s queer community has much to celebrate after the country’s Supreme Court struck down a Colonial Era law that criminalized gay and lesbian sex. Photo: iStock/SoumenNath

In a groundbreaking, global victory for gay rights, India’s Supreme Court in New Delhi on Thursday struck down one of the world’s oldest laws criminalizing consensual gay sex, a ruling that could impact almost 20 percent of the world’s LGBTQ population since India is the second most populous country on the planet.

In the court’s decision, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the law, known as Section 377, was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary,” according to the New York Times.

SECTION 377

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was introduced by the British during Colonial rule. It imposed up to a life sentence on “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”

The law was usually enforced in cases of sex between men, but it officially extended to anybody caught having anal or oral sex, according to the article.

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In 2009, Delhi’s High Court abolished Section 377 effectively legalizing gay sex. That verdict, however, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013.

FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION

In 2016, five gay and lesbian Indians submitted a writ petition to the Supreme Court challenging Section 377 on the basis that it violated their rights to equality and liberty, among other infractions, under India’s Constitution.

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The initial group included Navtej Singh Johar, a dancer, and his partner, Sunil Mehra, a journalist; Ritu Dalmia, a celebrity chef; Ayesha Kapur, a businesswoman; and Aman Nath, a hotelier.

During July hearings, lawyers argued that the law was a harmful and legally inconsistent with other court rulings, including one made last year that guaranteed the constitutional right to privacy, according to the article.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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