News / Asia

Indian Supreme Court Upholds Anti-Gay Law

FILE - A view of the Indian Supreme Court building in New Delhi.
FILE - A view of the Indian Supreme Court building in New Delhi.
Anjana Pasricha
In a major setback to India’s homosexual community, the country’s Supreme Court has upheld a 19th century law which criminalizes gay sex.  The top court’s ruling came in response to mostly religious groups which had challenged a 2009 judgment legalizing homosexuality.

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a law which bans sex “against the order of nature” is constitutionally valid.  It said only parliament could change the law.

The top court’s ruling has overturned a 2009 landmark judgment in which the Delhi High Court had legalized gay sex saying that a ban on it between consenting adults infringed on fundamental rights.

Wednesday’s judgment sent shockwaves through the gay community, which denounced it as regressive.
 
Gay rights activists who led the legal battle to decriminalize homosexuality vowed to explore all channels to take their battle forward, saying the fight is not over. Many said they had been let down by the top court.

Shaleen Rakesh, a gay man, has been closely involved with the legal fight for gay rights. He says a single judgment has reversed the hopeful journey of recent years and echoed what many gays are saying across the country.  

“I am shocked to be living in a country which wants me to go back into the closet. I am not going to go back into the closet,” he said.

Anjali Gopalan, head of the Naz Foundation, which led the legal battle to overturn the ban on homosexuality, said, “I am so exhausted thinking that we’ve been set back by a 100 years. What ages are we living in?  What is this reflective of us as a culture, what does this say of us as a people? It’s bizarre that we got the judgment that we did. It’s really pathetic and sad.”   
 
Gay sex has long been frowned upon in India, but the 2009 judgment had encouraged homosexuals to come out in the open. In recent years, gay pride marches have been held in major cities like New Delhi and Mumbai, though in a country where acceptance of homosexuality is low, some participants still covered their faces during the marches.
 
Among those who had challenged the 2009 law decriminalizing homosexuality was the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Its spokesman, Zafaryab Jilani, said Indian heritage has been upheld by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

He says things (homosexuality) which had never been accepted in India cannot be legalized. He says homosexuality is not just against Islam, but against all religions.  

With the Supreme Court saying that it is up to the legislature to take a fresh look at the law banning homosexuality, all eyes are now on the government. But with elections due next year, it is unlikely to take a stand.
    
India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal reacted cautiously, saying the Supreme Court’s opinion must be respected. He did not say what the government’s next move would be.
 
“We have the prerogative to make laws. We shall exercise our prerogative. I am not going to extend my comments beyond that,” he said.
 
Although the law, which carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence, is seldom enforced, India’s gay community has long complained of harassment by police.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: James from: India
December 23, 2013 9:53 PM
India of all places should understand homosexuality and why it exists in Nature. They abundantly believe in reincarnation and you with think with any sensible logic that the spirit is not bound by the attributes of the body and the soul would live many lives as both man and women, that during these transitory periods it would take several lifetimes for this to fully occur. To punish their own people for what is naturally a byproduct of the reincarnation process is absurd, cruel and purely ignorant.

Why is that religions that glorify the soul put so much weight on the body? Souls likely are genderless having no body after you die. Why the fuss? This is cruel and ignorant.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
December 11, 2013 8:19 AM
For once there comes a supreme court that works like it is peopled from sane society. At a time when you think everything good has been forgotten and only the bad is now in existence, hope rises from India. Thank God for the men who can stand on their feet and support their heads on their shoulders to bear their own names. However, the law minister should be clear where he stands. Presently he sounds like standing on the fence, or is afraid his masters from the west will chastise him with the cane if he did not speak from both ends of the mouth. Without necessarily being macho, men can still be men by simply making it clear where they stand on a matter, not to make it look like they are in when they are out. Kudos to India, and to all those who can still stand up to what is pure, natural and truth.
In Response

by: Jon from: United states
December 13, 2013 10:52 AM
People with closed minded shall be living out of space ....we are in time where homosexuality is now common as any other things...theres people straight people that commit real crimes and serious sins they should be punished not innocent men that decide to come out of the closet and live a happy life ....you all gays from india u have my support ...hang in there ...good always defeats bad ...the law ill change eventually . Good luck and my support to you
In Response

by: Devleena from: India
December 13, 2013 1:28 AM
You sir, are a narrow-minded god-fearing man with no respect for mankind. And seeing which country you're from, you seem thoroughly unemployed to comment on our affairs.
I'm surprised gay-rights is even an issue. Imagine two people in love and not in bed.
it's a pity our planet has such 'humans' roaming free and given the liberty of speech.
have a nice day, and mind your own country.
In Response

by: Jon from: United states
December 13, 2013 12:27 AM
Shame on u ..pure u call? Straight men having sex with women fornicating ,adutry , incest etc etc ...all human rece sin ..isnt the same to god ? Sin is a sin no matter what it is ..are you exempt of any sin ? Haha I dint think so ...ask god for forgiveness cause you sin too my man

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs