New Delhi Court takes promising step forward for LGBT rights in India

, by Sophie Mirgaux

New Delhi Court takes promising step forward for LGBT rights in India

The High Court of New Delhi decriminalised homosexual intercourse between consenting adults in a July 2nd 2009 judgment on Section 377 of the Penal Code. This decision is the result of years of advocacy of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual) rights activists and comes at a time when India starts to show greater acceptance for gays.

“We’ve finally entered into the 21st century!”, Anjali Gopolan, executive director of the Naz Foundation Trust exclaims after hearing the repeal of Section 377 by the New Delhi High Court. The Naz Foundation Trust is the LGBT rights organization that initiated proceedings against Section 377 – a law punishing with sentences up to life imprisonment “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, or in reality, homosexual intercourse – as early as September 2001. On July 2nd, the two judge bench of the New Delhi court pronounced the law inapplicable because of its violation of the fundamental rights protected by the Indian Constitution and of international human rights standards.

With this judgment they finally part with a 149 year old colonial rule and confirm what both human rights organisations and international bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, have been saying for years: that this law does not reflect the norms and values of Indian society, that it violates the Constitution and human rights instruments and that it is exploited by the police to harass, intimidate, blackmail, extort money, rape and prevent gay related activities.

Because despite of the fact that even the Kama Sutra already lyrically described male and female homosexual sex, it cannot be denied that India is still a conservative society, where religion plays a big role. Representatives of the main religions have, as a matter of fact, been outspoken against the repeal, stating that does not match Indian morals and even that it is a “bad influence from the West”.

We’ve finally entered into the 21st century!

Human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch have repeatedly reported on hate crimes against gays and discrimination by society, but also by family and friends. On top of this, the marginalisation of LGBT seriously hampers the fight for safe sex and against HIV/AIDS within this group of society.

However, reports of harassments against homosexual people are in decline since a couple of years in India and acceptance seems to increase. Proof of this are the larger presence and slightly more positive depictions of gays in the media. Bollywood seems to open up for LGBTs and a number of prominent tv figures such as Celina Jaitley have openly endorsed Naz’s activities. Gay pride parades are organised in more and more cities across India. This year alone, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Puducherry received parades again and Bhubaneswar welcomed one for the first time.

The repeal is a massive step forward for equal rights of LGBTs and is a testimony to what the New Delhi judges called Indian’s “inclusiveness”. “The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognising a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as “deviants’ or ’different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracised.”, the judges add.

Nevertheless, the optimism is cautious, as this repeal is officially only valid in New Delhi. It is now up to the other states, and, even more so, up to the government – some Ministers have agreed to putting the matter of an official ban of Section 377 on the agenda – to turn the words of the two New Delhi judges into practice.


Indian gay parade, source: ibnlive

protestors, source: Twenty22

Your comments


Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom