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Citizenship

India's Supreme Court Could Finally Decriminalize Gay Sex


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Consensual gay sex remains illegal in several countries throughout the world, including India. New support from the country’s Supreme Court could help to increase LGBTQ acceptance,curb violence, and reduce inequalities throughout the nation. You can join us in taking action on this issue and the rest of the UN’s Global Goals here.

India’s Supreme Court has begun its hotly anticipated hearing challenging the country’s law criminalizing consensual gay sex, reported The New York Times.

Lawyers representing gay and lesbian Indians who have petitioned the court described Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual activities, as an “archaic holdout from India’s colonial era.”

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“We are asking for a declaration that our rights are protected,” one of the lawyers, Mukul Rohatgi, argued before five judges, according to The New York Times. The court is expected to reach a verdict in a few weeks.

Laws similar to Section 377 have been overturned in the United States, Canada, England, and Nepal, argued Rohatgi. He also said that it contradicted a ruling last year guaranteeing the constitutional right to privacy, including for gay people.

Homosexuality is criminalized in India based on 1860s legislation that is a vestige of British rule. Prior to that, India was at ease with depictions of same-sex love, The New York Times noted, citing the prevalence of gender fluidity in Hinduism, the nation’s predominant religion.

The law is typically enforced in cases of sex between men, but technically extends to anyone discovered having anal or oral sex.

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The original group appealing the law included Navtej Singh Johar, a dancer; Sunil Mehra, a journalist; Ritu Dalmia, a celebrity chef; Ayesha Kapur, a businesswoman; and Aman Nath, a hotelier.

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Since then, 26 more individuals have joined them, and last week the Indian Psychiatric Society called for decriminalization, saying homosexuality was not a disorder.

The long-conservative country has been changing over the last decade, activists said.

Prince Manvendra became India’s only openly gay prince when he came out in 2006, ignoring taboos and defying his family, according to Salon. The action resulted in being disowned by his own family and witnessing protesters burn his effigy in the streets, HuffPost reported at the time. Since then, the prince has dedicated his time to founding the Lakshya Trust, a non-profit that supports the LGBTQ community in Gujarat, India.

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And at The LaLiT, a hotel chain run by Keshav Suri, a hotelier who filed one of the petitions against Section 377, stars from the American television series RuPaul’s Drag Race regularly attend his dance parties, according to The New York Times.

“I’m hopeful,” Suri said in the interview. “These judges are very capable.”