Gay sex illegal,says Supreme Court

Activists said Wednesday's judgment will be a landmark in the gay rights' struggle in India.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: December 11, 2013 9:43 am

More than four years after the Delhi High Court’s historic judgment decriminalising gay sex between consenting adults,the Supreme Court is all set to deliver its final judgment on the matter on Wednesday.

Some lawyers had challenged the ruling in the apex court. The court’s call — to be taken by a Bench led by Justice G S Singhvi on his last working day — will be the final word on the contentious issue. The Bench had reserved its verdict in March last year after day-to-day hearing of the case from February 15,2012.

The case is being closely followed by the LGBT community and rights activists. At Naz Foundation,on whose petition the Delhi High Court judgment was delivered,albeit after a long drawn debate on the organisation’s locus standi to push for repeal of Section 377,its founder Anjali Gopalan said,“We are just waiting for the judgment and hoping it is a favourable one.”

Framed in 1860,Section 377 criminalises “carnal intercourse” which are “against the order of nature” without specifically defining the terms. The petitions in the Supreme Court seek largely to establish that gay and lesbian sex are against the order of nature.

The HC had declared that interpretation of Section 377 to criminalise private homosexual behaviour by consenting adults is violative of fundamental rights like right to life,personal liberty,equality and the right to prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion,race,caste sex or place of birth.

Activists said while Wednesday’s judgment will be a landmark in the gay rights’ struggle in India — one way or the other — there is also a realisation that this is only one step. “After the HC judgment that had invoked the right to dignity and the right to privacy,it would be a real shame if that were to be overturned. But it is important to realise that regardless of which way this judgment goes,there is a lot of ground to be covered,in terms of social acceptability,” said Shalini Krishan,a member of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee.

“We are hopeful as the debate now has become about a set of constitutional values like equality and dignity which we are positive,will hold,regardless of the moral takes of others. But the outcome of this case will make no difference to our struggle to make the everyday lives of queer people safer. A positive verdict means more power to that movement,” said Gautam Bhan,an activist associated with the case.

(With inputs from Utkarsh Anand)

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