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India’s Supreme Court Reinstates Gay Sex Ban

“India’s Supreme Court struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalize homosexual conduct, dealing a blow Wednesday to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society,” the Associated Press reports (George, 12/11). “Known as Section 377, the law has been in the books since India’s colonial-era days,” CNN notes (Singh, 12/11). “The 1861 law, which imposes a 10-year sentence for ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal,’ was ruled unconstitutional in a 2009 decision. But the Supreme Court held that only Parliament had the power to change that law,” the New York Times writes (Harris, 12/11). “Correspondents say although the law has rarely — if ever — been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals,” according to BBC News (Pandey, 12/11). “Civil rights attorneys and gay rights activists expressed shock and anger at the ruling,” the Financial Times writes (Kazmin, 12/11).

“Legal experts say gay rights groups could still appeal the judgment by filing a review petition,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Rana/Mandhana, 12/11). “India’s law minister said Thursday that the government has not abandoned efforts to make homosexuality legal, saying the country must take swift action to challenge a Supreme Court decision banning same-sex relations,” according to the Associated Press/Washington Post (12/12). “But it seems unlikely the government will risk taking a stand on the issue in the short term,” Reuters writes, adding, “General elections are due by next May and the socially conservative Hindu nationalist opposition is already gathering momentum” (Asokan, 12/11). “Gay sex has long been a taboo subject in conservative India, where homophobic tendencies abound and many still regard being gay as a mental illness,” Agence France-Presse notes (12/12). With the ruling, “India will rejoin the more than 70 countries — mainly in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia — where homosexual relations are illegal,” The Guardian adds (Burke, 12/11). The Washington Post provides a map of countries where homosexuality is criminalized (Fisher, 12/11).