Indian Court Reinstates Law Banning Gay Sex

Published: December 11, 2013

 NEW DELHI—India’s Supreme Court Wednesday overturned a lower court’s ruling that had decriminalized gay sex, a disappointing surprise setback for the gay-rights movement in this largely conservative country.

 
In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that a 19th-century provision in the country’s penal code that effectively banned gay sex should not apply to consensual acts.
 
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected that decision, saying the old law was still constitutionally valid and could only be changed or erased by Parliament, not the courts.
 
Rights groups say the law—known as Section 377 for its place in a 150-year-old Indian penal code—had been used for decades to harass homosexuals.
 
“We hold that Section 377 IPC does not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and the declaration made by the Division Bench of the High court is legally unsustainable,” the two supreme-court judges who presided over the case said in their 98-page judgment, released late Wednesday.
 
People across India were shocked by the decision. Most legal experts and activists had expected the country’s highest court to uphold the landmark decision, which had been seen as a crucial first step in empowering India’s gay community.
 
“I think this is a dark day for the constitution,” said Gautam Bhan, a gay-rights activist and Delhi-based urban planner who came to India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday expecting to celebrate. “Never before has a Supreme Court taken away an expansion of rights to Indian citizens and reversed a move toward inclusion.”
 
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