India’s Historic Gay Ruling

By Ranjita Biswas

, by IPS

A day after the Delhi High Court’s landmark judgment to overturn a colonial law that criminalised homosexuality, Indians expressed mixed reactions to the verdict.

After almost 150 years of introduction of Section 377, a law of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which describes same-sex relationships as an "unnatural offense", the Delhi High Court overturned the law on July 2, ruling that gay sex between consenting adults would no longer be unlawful.

"Homosexuals in the country now have the right to live like any other citizen and without being treated like criminals," Anjali Gopalan, the director of the Naz Foundation, a New Delhi-based gay rights nongovernmental organisation.

But she cautioned that the "judgment doesn’t mean that homosexuality is legal, but that adults in consensual homosexual relationship cannot be discriminated against."

Section 377 of IPC was introduced in India in 1860 during the British colonial period indicting homosexuality as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and thus punishable by law. In Britain, the Victorian law was scrapped in 1967, but its former colonies chose to cling to it.

Since 1994, gay rights activists have consistently demanded that this law be changed, citing it as discriminatory and misused to harassed homosexuals.

But their demand had not been to completely abolish the Section, but only "read down" the law, given Section 377 is instrumental in prosecuting other crimes like pedophilia. Read more