I want to receive new articles by email
India decriminalizes homosexuality
By María Vila Rebolo
Indian’s Supreme Court has passed a historic ruling which insures that homosexuality is no longer a criminal offense. Homosexuality featured prominently in the religious texts and sculptures of India prior to 1850. This changed during British colonial rule when a law was passed which made consensual “sexual activity that went against the laws of nature” punishable by up to life in prison. Although there have not been many prosecutions under this law, members of the LGBT community claim that it has been used to ostracize and stigmatize them.
Years of hard work by the Naz Foundation and the LGBT community has finally led the highest court to rule that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of human rights. This ruling is based on the principle that denial of the right to sexual orientation is the same as disallowing the right to privacy.
The public opinion in India’s largest cities has long been in favour of abolishing this law, but on the other side it was supported in conservative rural communities and by religious groups. The ruling of the court represents an epic victory for India’s LGBT community. It may also help to dismantle the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS among gay men, as the old law impeded many from seeking the medical care that they needed. India joins 17 other former British colonies that have overturned similar laws. However, homosexuality still remains illegal in 36 British Commonwealth countries, including Singapore, Kenya and Sri Lanka.