India’s Supreme Court agrees to debate colonial law on whether homosexuality should still be illegal

Breaking the 1860 colonial law, known as section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, can incur with a 10-year jail sentence

Emma Henderson
Tuesday 02 February 2016 18:49
Comments
Gay rights supporters celebrate after India's top court agreed to re-examine a colonial-era law that criminalises homosexual acts
Gay rights supporters celebrate after India's top court agreed to re-examine a colonial-era law that criminalises homosexual acts

India’s highest court has agreed to review its decision to uphold a colonial law which criminalises same-sex relationships.

The Supreme Court asked a five-judge bench to examine the law, which dates back to 1860 and calls a same-sex relationship an “unnatural offence”.

Breaking the law - known as section 377 of the Indian Penal Code - can incur a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

The review of the decision, which was put forward by LGBT activists and the NG Naz Foundation, has been seen as a victory for India’s homosexual rights campaigners and activists gathered outside the court to cheer the decision.

“It’s definitely a move forward,” said lawyer Anand Grover

Although the law is rarely enforced in reality, it is still used to bribe and intimidate homosexuals - allowing cases to go unreported for fears of being punished for engaging in homosexual activity.

Human Rights group Amnesty International India welcomed the court’s review, saying the law puts homosexuality under physical, mental and legal threat.

“The Supreme Court has another chance to correct a grave error,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Indian Activists of the LGBT community celebrate after the hearing at the Supreme Court

The law was reinstated in December 2013 by the Supreme Court, which at the time was a surprise and ended a four-year period of decimalisation that helped bring homosexuality into the open.

The previous Congress-led government had pledged to repeal the law if it came to power again, but it was crushed by Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s Bharatiya Janta Party in general elections in May 2014.

In December, members of Mr Modi’s party, which has an overwhelming majority in the lower house of parliament, scuppered a private member’s bill to scrap the law.

“It’s about principles of freedom enshrined in our constitution,” said Shashi Tharoor, the opposition congress lawmaker who introduced the bill.

Additional reporting by Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in