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India's Supreme Court Upholds Ban On Gay Sex

India's Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on homosexuality.
Posted at 12:42 PM, Dec 11, 2013

Once more, homosexuality is a crime in the world’s largest democracy.

A ban on gay sex in India dates back to the 1860s when the country was a colony of Great Britain. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Jan Van Ryne

​For more than a decade, gay rights activists fought to overturn Section 377 of India’s penal code. It criminalizes so-called “carnal intercourse” — making it punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (Via U.T. Administration of Daman & Diu)

Then Delhi High Court ruled the ban unconstitutional in 2009 — only for the country's Supreme Court to overturn that decision Wednesday. (Via RTE)

Perhaps not totally unexpected in deeply-traditional India where being gay remains a taboo subject and many regard homosexuality as unnatural. 

As Gardiner Harris at The New York Times notes:  “The pressure to marry, have children and conform to traditional notions of family and caste can be overwhelming in many communities  … So gays are often forced to live double lives.”

Still, the court’s ruling came as a surprise for some gay and human rights activists.

“For the gay rights community, it was a symbolic fight because this particular law has rarely, if ever, been used to prosecute two adults for consensual sex but it has been used by police to harass homosexuals.” (Via France 24

But religious groups in India— Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike — praised the court’s ruling. A member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told the BBC"The court is not suppressing any citizen, instead it is understanding the beliefs and values of the large majority of the country.” 

Gay rights groups in the country have called for the court's decision to be reviewed.