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Indian Supreme Court Begins Hearing on Legalization of Gay Sex

On Tuesday, the Indian supreme court begins a landmark hearing on homosexuality. This may have a wide ranging impact on how lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gender citizens are treated across the subcontinent.

Gay men and women and human rights activists hope they are finally on the last leg of a 20-year legal battle to decriminalize gay sex.

The court will also hear numerous petitions arguing for gay sex between consenting adults to be legalised. However, this is the first time the court is set to hear from notable individuals, with planned speeches from a famous chef, a hotelier and a classical dancer.

Gay sex is punishable with life imprisonment in the country. It has been illegal in India since Section 377 of an 1861 law – introduced under British colonial rule – banned sexual activity “against the order of nature,” including with another man or woman.

In 2009, the high court in Delhi ruled that the1861 law violated human rights, and legalised homosexual sex between consenting adults.

However, in 2013, the supreme court reversed the hight court ruling – making gay sex illegal again – and outraging LGBT+ rights campaigners across the world. It also meant that Indians, who had come out since 2009, were left open to discrimination.

In February 2016, the supreme court said it would reconsider its judgement, which is why this hearing is being held.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has not yet made its stand clear. On Monday, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the top court to defer the hearing.

“We will submit our stand during the course of the hearing,” Mehta said on Tuesday as the hearing commenced.

“It is not a normal thing,” said Subramanian Swamy on Tuesday. “We cannot celebrate it. It’s against Hindutva. We should invest in medical research to see if it can be cured.”

Suraj Sanap, the supreme court lawyer for this ruling, said: “The supreme court’s ruling on privacy last year was critical. It was a de facto overturning of its own earlier 2013 ruling against gay sex.

“That means there is really no leeway for the judges to argue otherwise than for gay sex to be legalised.”

>Juthy Saha



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