In 2009 the Delhi High Court ruled Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional because it denied rights to a certain set of citizens. Section 377 included a penalty for “unnatural offences” which criminalises same-sex relationships for up to 10 years of jail time and could be extended to life imprisonment. The court’s ruling “Recriminalises love” in India and makes the world’s largest democracy one of 77 countries around that globe that criminalises homosexuality. This is a deeply disturbing step backward, as LGBT equality is advancing around the world.
“It is incomprehensible that a court of law would take the side of discrimination against LGBT citizens,” said HRC Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer Jeff Krehely. “Criminalising LGBT relationships leads to dangerous situations, not just for committed couples, but also for LGBT youth, who today received a deeply harmful message that they are less than equal. We call on fair-minded people around the world to show solidarity with India’s LGBT community at this critical moment.”
Frustrated with mounting losses at home, American conservatives also have rushed to praise the criminalisation of same-sex relationships overseas, with American Family Radio host Bryan Fischer saying “What India’s Supreme court has done is entirely right” and “We need a Supreme Court which will do the same.”
Today’s ruling came as a surprise to LGBT activists who had expected the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court’s ruling. The decision means same-sex relations in India are once again subject to a 153-year-old law, passed under British rule.
“Yesterday, we mourned the loss of President Mandela – a leader whose presidency saw the first constitutional prohibition on anti-gay discrimination. Today, the India Supreme Court has denied my freedom as a gay man, upholding a 153-year-old colonial law that could result in my own imprisonment,” said Tushar Malik, a fellow with HRC’s Global Engagement Program and an LGBT advocate in India. “But I refuse to retreat. With this ruling, India becomes the 77th country worldwide criminalising LGBT people. I will continue speaking out until we are no longer on that abhorrent list of 77.”