National

India top court reinstates gay sex ban

Share Bookmark Print Rating
By Agencies

Posted  Wednesday, December 11  2013 at  15:51
SHARE THIS STORY

India's top court has upheld a law which criminalises gay sex, in a ruling seen as a major blow to gay rights.

The Supreme Court ruling reverses a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.

The court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue.

According to Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial law, a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Several political, social and religious groups had petitioned the Supreme Court to have the law reinstated in the wake of the 2009 court ruling.

Correspondents say although the law has rarely - if ever - been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals.

Also, in deeply conservative India, homosexuality is a taboo and many people still regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate.

Black day

"It is up to parliament to legislate on this issue," Justice GS Singhvi, the head of the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in Wednesday's ruling, which came on his last day before retiring.

"The legislature must consider deleting this provision (Section 377) from law as per the recommendations of the attorney general," he added.

India's Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters the government would respect the ruling but did not say whether there were plans to amend the law. Correspondents say any new legislation is unlikely soon - general elections are due next year.

Gay rights activists have described Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling as "disappointing" and said they will approach the court to review its decision.

"Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day," Arvind Narrain, a lawyer for the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.

"We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court," he said.

"This decision is a body-blow to people's rights to equality, privacy and dignity," G Ananthapadmanabhan of Amnesty International India said in a statement.

1 | 2 Next Page»