India could be on the verge of legalising homosexuality after the country’s top court agreed to re-examine the country’s law banning gay sex.
The Indian Supreme Court will review the validity of Section 377 of India’s penal code which bans “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” and has a punishment with life imprisonment.
Section 377 is modelled on a 16th century English law and was adopted when India was a colony of the British Empire, and is widely interpreted as a law against gay sex.
The Guardian reported the justices as saying, “A section of people or individuals who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear.
“Choice can’t be allowed to cross boundaries of law, but confines of law can’t trample or curtail the inherent right embedded in an individual under article 21 of [the Indian constitution].”
Article 21 reads: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
The court was responding to a petition put forward by a group of LGBTI activists who said they faced the constant threat of arrest under the law.
The decision comes after a years-long tussle over the law. The gay sex ban was overturned by the Delhi High Court in 2009, but reinstated by the Supreme Court in 2013.
But activists cheered a landmark Supreme Court judgment last August, which stated that the country’s LGBTI community had a right to privacy and liberty, suggesting Section 377 could be open to a legal challenge.
Well-known local activist Harish Iyer said it was “about time” the law was scrapped.
“We are being cautiously optimistic about the development today. We have climbed mountains of hope in the past and come toppling down,” he told Reuters.
(Photo by Delhi Queer Pride)