“India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated a ban on gay sex in the world’s largest democracy, following a four-year period of decriminalization that had helped bring homosexuality into the open in the socially conservative country.
“In 2009 the Delhi High Court ruled unconstitutional a section of the penal code dating back to 1860 that prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal’ and lifted the ban for consenting adults.
“The Supreme Court threw out that decision, saying only parliament could change Section 377 of the penal code, widely interpreted to refer to homosexual sex. Violation of the law can be punished with up to 10 years in jail.
“The move shocked rights activists around the world, who had expected the court simply to rubber-stamp the earlier ruling. In recent years, India's Supreme Court has made progressive rulings on several issues such as prisoners' rights and child labor. [...]
“India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the government could raise the matter in parliament. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seen to broadly support the 2009 ruling, and some ministers said they opposed Wednesday’s rollback.
“But it seems unlikely the government will risk taking a stand on the issue in the short term. General elections are due by next May and the socially conservative Hindu nationalist opposition is already gathering momentum.
“India’s gay culture has opened up in recent years, although the country remains overwhelmingly conservative and sex outside marriage, even among heterosexual couples, is largely frowned upon. India’s first gay pride march took place in the eastern city of Kolkata in 1999 and only around a dozen people attended. [...]
“The 2009 judgmenthad allowed people to organize such events far more openly by protecting gay people from being fired because of their sexuality, and has meant that doctors could no longer refuse to treat homosexuals, activists say.”
See 2009 post on anti-caste:
“The Delhi High Court has ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,’ should not apply to consensual relations between adults.
“The decision that ‘penile, non-vaginal sex’ should not in itself be considered a crime is good news. While few were prosecuted under Section 377, a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report noted that it has been commonly used ‘by the police mostly to victimize gay and bisexual men whom they catch in public areas to extort money and blackmail, despite the fact that blackmail and extortion are criminal offences. Section 377 has also been used to intimidate lesbian women, particularly in the cases of women who have run away together, or if they make their relationship known.’ The law is a direct legacy of British rule, having been introduced in 1861 by the colonial state.
“However, the social effects of this formal extension of democratic rights should not be overestimated. It is not suddenly ‘OK to be gay in India,’ as many headlines have suggested. No more than the article in the Indian constitution prohibiting ‘discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth,’ on which the court’s ruling was based in part, has in fact removed such discrimination. Like the liberation of women and those oppressed by caste, real sexual freedom will require a profound reorganization of the material basis of society. It will take nothing less than the replacement of the family as an economic institution within a collectivized, socialist economy.
“Section 377 has not been repealed. It remains on the books and the court, as part of the same ruling, affirmed its application to cases involving people under eighteen. In a country where forced child marriage remains commonplace, young people are ‘presumed not to be able to consent to a sexual act.’”
And see on anti-caste:
CONGRESS-LED GOVT DEFENDS REACTIONARY, COLONIAL-ERA LAWS (September 27, 2008)