Homosexuality and India in 2018: Is it about to be legalised?

Taj Mahal against grey sky


India’s Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to repeal Section 377 – a colonial-era statute that 'protects' against carnal intercourse.

Carnal intercourse has long been understood to include homosexuality.

The Indian Government has deferred the matter to the Court, saying that it will not interfere or appeal a final decision on Section 377.  Introduced in 1861 when India was under British rule, the statute forms part of the country's penal code on which India's laws are based. 

Section 377 is also proof that despite Britain's role as a major international proponent of LGBTQ rights, it's left an appalling legacy in many of its former overseas interests and possessions. Colonial-era laws have caused problems in a number of Commonwealth countries where Victorian penal codes have clashed with human rights laws. This was seen recently in Bermuda with the repeal and then reversal of same-sex marriage.

Back in 2012, the Indian Government told the Supreme Court that there were 2.5 million gay people living in India.  Of course, an “official count” in a country where homosexuality is illegal will almost certainly be lower on paper than in reality. India's population currently tops 1.35 billion people.




Scrabble Tiles with the word OUT written on them with a rainbow coloured background

But this isn’t India’s first attempt at decriminalising homosexuality.  In 2001, gay sex did become legal but, following a religious outcry, the ban was reinstated four years later. But the world is different now.  India is different, too, and there’s now wider and more vocal support for Section 377’s repeal.  

The Indian Government is well aware that on the international stage image is everything, and at present, as 1 of 37 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is illegal, those in power understand that it's not a desirable list to be on. 

We'll keep you updated on what happens next.



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