India Reconsiders Homosexual Rights


Kaitlin Lee, Staff Writer

In India, there is a law from the colonial era that makes homosexual acts punishable up to ten years. But now, there may be a chance that it will be amended. India’s Supreme Court has stated that it will reconsider a decision to not overturn this law because of the constitutional issues. Chief Justice Dipak Misra, as well as two other judges, said that there will be a larger group of justices who would reconsider the law. However, so far, no date has been confirmed for hearings for this case.

This decision was made after five people, fearful of being prosecuted, filed a petition. Their attorney, Arvind Datar, said the law is unconstitutional because it supports the punishment of consenting adults.

This is not the first time that homophobic laws have been challenged by courts. In 2009, a New Delhi High Court stated that Section 377, which says that intercourse between members of the same sex is against the order of nature, was unconstitutional. However, in 2013, this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court explained their judgement by saying that repealing or amending the law should be left to the Parliament, not the judiciary. However, the conservative Parliament is in no rush to change the law.

So now, the top court will decide what to do with the law. On Monday, Jan. 1, the Supreme Court said that while choice can’t be allowed to break the law, laws shouldn’t limit the human right to freedom that the Indian Constitution grants to individuals.

This is another big advance to equality, and follows many more steps taken to improve the lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Plus (LGBT+) individuals in India. There’s been an increase in Bollywood movies talking about gay issues, like Aligarh and My Brother…Nikhil. Since 2014, transgender people, or hijras as they are called in India, have been allowed to change their gender even if they didn’t go through gender reassignment surgery, and also have a constitutional right to identify themselves by a third gender. Just recently, there could be a new law legalizing gay marriage. However, being LGBT+ is still considered shameful in India, and many homoseuxal individuals remain hidden. There are still many reports of honor killings, attacks, and beatings against members of the LGBT+ community.

But, hopefully, this step will lead to many more improvements in India, from basic discrimination protections to eventually marriage equality.

Photo courtesy of INDEPENDENT.CO.UK