India: Court ruling to re-criminalise homosexuality a 'dark day for freedom'

A ruling by India’s Supreme Court which makes consensual same-sex relations between adults a criminal offence, marks a dark day for freedom in India, Amnesty International said today.
 
Earlier today the Supreme Court overturned a historic ruling by the Delhi High Court made in 2009 which had decriminalised consensual same-sex activity between adults. The Supreme Court said that a law called Section 377 - which criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”- was constitutionally valid, and said that the government could take legislative steps to re-impose the law.
 
Ananth Guruswamy, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India, said:
 

“This decision is a body-blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity.
 
“It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights.
 
“The government of India has said that it is in favour of decriminalising homosexuality. Now is the time to act on its word. Parliament must immediately pass legislation to restore the rights and freedoms that have been denied today.”

 
The Delhi High Court had ruled in 2009 that the outlawing of consensual adult same-sex relations was discriminatory and violated the rights to equality, privacy and dignity set forth in the Indian Constitution. The case was initially brought by the Naz Foundation, an Indian sexual rights organisation. Following the Delhi ruling a group of private bodies, including faith-based and religious groups, appealed the decision in the Supreme Court.
 
The Delhi court had said the criminalisation of homosexuality forced “a sizeable section of society … to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation, cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery”.
 
The UN Human Rights Committee – the expert body that oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – has said that laws used to criminalise private, adult, consensual same-sex relations violate rights to privacy and non-discrimination.
 

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