John M. Becker

Outrage in India Over Resurrected Sodomy Ban

Filed By John M. Becker | December 13, 2013 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Bollywood, decriminalization, editorial board, gay sex, India, India Supreme Court, recriminalization, shocking, sodomy law, United Nations

mumbai_protest_2.jpgThe disgraceful and shocking ruling from the Indian Supreme Court this week that recriminalized gay sex has sparked outrage across the country. From politicians and government figures to major newspapers, celebrities, and activists, a chorus of condemnation has arisen.

Here's a round-up of the reactions.

Times of India

"The Supreme Court's decision to reimpose the 19th century ban on homosexuality is not just tragic; it's ironic too. Its sudden deference to parliamentary prerogative in the context of Section 377 IPC smacks not only of a retrograde attitude but selectivity as well...

"The apex court's verdict yesterday, at the instance of motley religious groups, is a setback to gender justice, human rights and even public health. One of the grounds on which the Naz Foundation had petitioned against Section 377 was that blanket criminalisation of LGBT persons had made it harder to reach them for AIDS treatment. It was only after the high court had rid them of criminal taint that the public health protocol could be changed to bring gay persons on board. The horrendous but impractical implication of the judicial U-turn is that they have to go back into the closet.

"Having been stripped of rights they had been conferred barely four years ago, LGBT persons are now more vulnerable than ever before to moral policing. Having supported them during the Supreme Court proceedings, the government should now spare no efforts to secure them remedies, whether judicial (by way of review petition) or legislative (by repealing Section 377).

Asian Age

""At a time of high judicial activism that has seen the Supreme Court deal with countless matters of public importance and passing orders that point to the distilled wisdom of an important arm of our society, such a ruling appears particularly socially regressive." (via BBC)

The Hindu

"The Supreme Court's retrograde decision to overturn the 2009 Delhi High Court verdict that decriminalised gay sex has enthroned medieval prejudice and dealt a body blow to liberal values and human rights... it should not shy away from correcting a centuries-old law and an outdated mind-set that offend against basic rights and human dignity."

Indian Express

"In a sad and shameful reversal, the Supreme Court has upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, meant to stamp out 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature' and mostly used to harass, humiliate and deny freedom to consenting homosexual adults... This is not correct procedure. It is simply the refusal to extend constitutional protections to some Indian citizens, on the basis of their sexual activity. The court, in this instance, seems to have abandoned its duty to protect fundamental rights, its capacity to lead progressive change, and left this difficult task to Parliament.

"For the last one and a half centuries, Section 377 has been a blunt instrument of repression -- one that looks equally upon paedophilia, rape, bestiality and all shades of sexual experiment, love and commitment between queer adults... now, at a moment when the court could have seized the lead to affirm human rights, it has inexplicably given up. In the past, when legislatures could not take leaps of the imagination or antagonise perceived public opinion, the courts have shown the way. They have catalysed democratic rights, defended the disadvantaged in the best tradition of judicial activism.

"Preparing and bringing up the law will be difficult in the last stages of this government's tenure, given the limited parliamentary time left to it. But our MPs must remember that the right to love whom you love, the need to stop living a lie, is more significant than other abstract political rights. What the courts have failed to do, they must take on."


Sonia Gandhi, India's most powerful politician

"I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has reversed a previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights. The High Court had wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in our constitution.

"This constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism and openness, that enjoins us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind.

"We are proud that our culture has been an inclusive and tolerant one. The Supreme Court also suggested another course. I hope that Parliament will address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by this judgment."

Kapil Sibal, Law and Justice Minister

"[T]here is a need to bring a change in the law, as soon as possible. This is not a law that fits in the 21st century. The mindset behind this decision of the SC belongs to the 19th century. This law will affect lots of people. There are many people out there who do not want consensual sex to be a criminal offence. We want to decriminalize what is mentioned in Section 377.

"I am disappointed, and, it is unfortunate that the SC has upheld the legality of Section 377. The High Court was right on this issue. Right now, there are several options before the government, and, we are exploring all of them. This government believes in firm and quick action, and, we will do that. We will adopt a policy that will provide relief at the earliest. We should not jeopardize these relationships and consider this as a criminal activity. The government stand was clear on this issue and in front of the people and the courts."

Jairam Ramesh, Minister of Rural Development

"Personally, I think it is a retrograde judgment and it has done no justice to a modern liberal India. If two consenting men and two consenting women...why should [it] be illegal?

"[Sex] is choice issue, personal choice. It is a liberal society, a modern society, a society that gives choice to individuals."

Goolam E. Vahanvati, Attorney General of India

"I belong to the school of thought which believes that an Attorney General must be heard in court and not outside it. However, there comes a time when an exception has to be made. I believe this is one such time...

"The world has moved on. It is fast changing. Perceptions have changed. Attitudes have changed. Law does not and cannot remain static. Whenever necessary, the Supreme Court has reflected changed perceptions of the law and has struck outmoded laws down.... Unfortunately, they declined to [do so] to Section 377. Therein lies the tragedy."

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights

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

Film superstar Aamir Khan

"I am most disappointed with this judgment. It feels very intolerant and violative of basic human rights. It's a shame."

Numerous other Indian actors, directors, and top brands took to Twitter to criticize the ruling and express support for the LGBT community. The New York Times and TIME report that college and university students -- straight and gay alike -- turned out "in hordes" to protest in Delhi; demonstrations have taken place in Mumbai as well. And LGBT activists are planning a "global day of rage" for Sunday, December 15, with demonstrations scheduled in nine Indian cities (and counting), plus events in Boston, New York, Ann Arbor, Toronto, London, Cambridge, and Sydney.

It looks like by stripping basic rights from the country's LGBT community, the Indian Supreme Court may have given them their Prop 8 moment -- and awakened a sleeping giant as a result.

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