India’s Supreme Court Ends Colonial-Era Gay Sex Ban

India’s Supreme Court Ends Colonial-Era Gay Sex Ban

In a historic decision by the Supreme Court of India, the court overturned Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code — a British colonial-era law dating back to 1861 that criminalized consensual sexual relationships between adults of the same sex.

In July, the Supreme Court of India held four days of hearings on six cases involving Section 377. While previous governments had argued in favor of retaining the harmful law, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced at the hearings that it would defer to the Supreme Court in deciding whether to decriminalize same-sex relationships between consenting adults. Today’s verdict comes at the end of almost two decades of legal battles which saw parts of Section 377 criminalizing same-sex conduct overturned by the Delhi High Court in 2009 then reinstated by the Supreme Court in 2013.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy and was the most populous of 72 countries that criminalize same-sex relations. In up to 10 countries, same-sex relations may be punishable by death. The Indian Supreme Court’s decision could significantly influence upcoming court cases and galvanize decriminalization efforts in other British Commonwealth countries — including in neighboring countries Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.

 

 

 

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