India debates legality of homosexuality

Indian flag October 15th, 2008

Pressure is growing in India to decriminalise homosexuality. Section 377, the law which criminalises homosexual activity, is currently being challenged at the Delhi High Court.

Section 377 was introduced in 1860 when India was under Victorian British rule and homosexuality was illegal in all British colonies. Under the current law, men or women who are engaged in ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with another person of the same sex’ can be jailed for up to 10 years.

The Indian Government has a contradictory stand on the issue, with the Home Ministry in favour of retaining the bill and the Health Ministry opposing it.

“Indian society strongly disapproves of homosexuality and the disapproval is strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offence even where consenting adults indulge in it in private,” the Home Ministry said in its affidavit. “Deletion of the section can open the floodgates for delinquent behaviour and be misconstrued as providing unbridled licence for homosexual acts.”

However, the Health Ministry has argued that “Enforcement of Section 377 can adversely contribute to pushing persons suffering from HIV underground, which would make such risky sexual practices go unnoticed.”

The movement to repeal Section 377 has been led by activist group the Naz Foundation India Trust.

An estimated 20 to 40 million people in India are not heterosexual.


  • I’m crossing my fingers! Not only for the equal rights of Indians, but quite selfishly, for my own upcoming legal journal article on Section 377 arguing some specific strategies for reformers looking to repeal the law and focusing on India and Singapore.

    Judith ∼ October 15th, 2008 7:42 pm

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