India’s Supreme Court on December 11, 2013, took a giant step backwards when it ruled to reinstate a colonial-era law, which imposes a 10-year sentence for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal.”

Protesters around the world demand that the world’s largest democracy’s top court’s decision to ban gay sex will be overturned. Even United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has tossed a statement into the fray.

“Criminalizing private, consensual same-sex sexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified,” she said in a statement issued in Geneva.

Indian gay rights
At the annual San Francisco Gay pride parade on June 30, 2013.

“Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in this case represents a significant step backwards for India and a blow for human rights.”

The court’s verdict upheld the validity of Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which bans “sex against the order of nature,” widely interpreted to mean homosexual sex. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the law from 1861 violated constitutional guarantees for equality, privacy and freedom of expression.

Still, there were organizations and individuals who were happy with the decision to turn the clock back more than 150 years. Dr. Syed Qasim Rasoo Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which filed a petition in support of the reversal, praised the court’s ruling.

“These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural,” he said. “They create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned,” Ilyas said,

In theory, the government could step in and try to reverse the reversal, but it would require a note from the home ministry for the cabinet, which in turn would have to send it to Parliament. But home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde all ready said it was “not possible to legislate on anything now.”

Popular author Vikram Seth offered his thoughts on the matter shortly after the verdict: “It was a great day for prejudice and inhumanity and a bad day for law and love,” he said and added “all I hope is that this judgment is cured, revised or overruled by a larger bench so that this stain is washed away.”

Brotherly and sisterly coitus will definitely be debated heavily in India during the months leading to the national elections in May 2014.

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