India top court reinstates gay sex ban


Sanjoy Majumder speaks to gay rights campaigners, who say they will continue to fight

Related Stories

India's top court has upheld a law which criminalises gay sex, in a ruling seen as a major blow to gay rights.

The Supreme Court ruling reverses a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.

The court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue.

According to Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Several political, social and religious groups had petitioned the Supreme Court to have the law reinstated in the wake of the 2009 court ruling.

Start Quote

There has been widespread outrage in India's gay community”

End Quote

Correspondents say although the law has rarely - if ever - been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals.

Also, in deeply conservative India, homosexuality is a taboo and many people still regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate.

The BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says some politicians have spoken out against the court decision - but many believe it is going to be difficult for them to take on the anti-gay lobby.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community and supporters attend the 5th Delhi Queer Pride parade in New Delhi on November 25, 2012. A 153-year-old colonial law describes a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence"
'Black day'

"It is up to parliament to legislate on this issue," Justice GS Singhvi, the head of the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in Wednesday's ruling, which came on his last day before retiring.


The Supreme Court ruling has come as a huge surprise for activists who have described it as "retrograde" and say this is "a black day" for gay rights in India.

They have campaigned for years for acceptance in India's deeply conservative society and many have vowed to carry on the fight for "their constitutional right".

Nobody expected the Supreme Court, often seen as a last recourse for citizens faced with an unresponsive government, to reverse an order many had hailed as a landmark.

As Justice GS Singhvi announced the order, activists and members of the gay and lesbian community present outside the court began crying and hugging each other.

Some asked if after the court ruling, they had become criminals.

"The legislature must consider deleting this provision (Section 377) from law as per the recommendations of the attorney general," he added.

India's Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters the government would respect the ruling but did not say whether there were plans to amend the law. Correspondents say any new legislation is unlikely soon - general elections are due next year.

Gay rights activists have described Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling as "disappointing" and said they would approach the court to review its decision.

"Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day," Arvind Narrain, a lawyer for the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.

"We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court," he said.

"This decision is a body-blow to people's rights to equality, privacy and dignity," G Ananthapadmanabhan of Amnesty International India said in a statement.

"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," he added.

However, the ruling has been welcomed by religious groups, particularly leaders of India's Muslim and Christian communities, who had challenged the Delhi High Court order.

National Akali Dal activists hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against an Indian court ruling to decriminalise gay sex in New Delhi on July 5, 2009 Many religious and political groups had opposed decriminalisation of gay sex

"The Supreme Court has upheld the century-old traditions of India, the court is not suppressing any citizen, instead it is understanding the beliefs and values of the large majority of the country," Zafaryab Jilani, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, told BBC Hindi.

In its 2009 ruling, the Delhi High Court had described Section 377 as discriminatory and said gay sex between consenting adults should not be treated as a crime.

The ruling was widely and visibly welcomed by India's gay community, which said the judgement would help protect them from harassment and persecution.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 800.

    Still amazes me how in the UK we are progressing by making gay marriage legal while other countries such as India and Russia are going backwards.

    Religion should not be involved in politics and law.
    If you don't want to have sex with someone of the same gender as you... Don't have sex with someone as the same gender as you. Not rocket science.

  • Comment number 799.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 798.

    Still waiting for an answer to my post 791. But of course, as with all obsessed religious types they have a limited view on life. From early brainwashing they have a lists of rights and wrongs which have never been questioned. Which sadly, prevents them from seeing what hate-filled hypocrites they really are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 797.

    This does not surprise me. I work in a country where Indian workers are the majority, and it never ceases to amaze me how they treat each other. The English class system is a benign curiosity compared to India.

  • rate this

    Comment number 796.

    MrW: For two men it would be more tricky, especially without a woman to gestate the child in

    A woman is not just 'a gestation'

    A woman is the MOTHER, the one who gave that child life and makes up half of who that child is

    You are not giving women the respect we deserve

    Gay men are not women
    Gay women are not men

    We may have to agree to disagree

  • rate this

    Comment number 795.

    Sexuality is not a choice. Religious bigotry is.

    God does not hate gay people. Sorry haters. Try again...

  • rate this

    Comment number 794.

    Visiting India always leaves me frustrated. Over the years I've seen new buildings rise and roads paved. But people's mindsets have not changed and it remains an oppressive, regressive state. You have MDs ridiculing their patients that have depression and well-educated people that spew vitriol towards homosexuals. The public shaming has got to stop if any kind of progressive is to be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 793.

    In my professional work, at one time I counseled pedophiles

    Not one of them was gay. All were married with children of their own. The abuse was about power not sexual pleasure. None were born with this "predisposition" all had a pattern of abuse/trauma/marginalization as a child. Hence

    - There is no evidence at all that gays are closet pedophiles
    - Pedophilia is a disorder, homosexuality is not

  • rate this

    Comment number 792.

    What a lot of tosh - if you don't like gays then you must be gay. By the same argument white racists must be black on the inside ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 791.

    784. LucyJ
    Scouts in USA are allowing gay youth but not gay leaders......which is why they are banned from such here
    Ok - and tell me, what measures have been taken to ensure little girls are protected from straight men (by far the most common abuse) in similar circumstances? Or does your prejudice only extend to the gay community?

  • rate this

    Comment number 790.

    According to religions,homosexuality arises from possessions.
    If you are a man and you are gay then you are possessed by a woman's dead spirit.If you are woman and you are gay then you are possessed by a man's dead spirit.

    You believing it or not is altogether different story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    766 - 'But we don't need gay parades, gay papers, gay bars etc.'

    In one way, I agree ...... BUT, nor, do we need triumphalist Sports parades or (dare I say it) Knighthoods for service to cycling (as an example!!!), Sports Papers or Sports Bars.

    Think before you drink, and then attack the keypad so venomously!

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    @781 DaveM
    "does a child have a choice in the matter of having sane sex parent's."

    This is a daft point. A child never has a choice about who its parents are. If you could choose your family, I think Fred & Rosemary West's children might have chosen to be born to a caring gay couple instead of the straight couple that murdered most of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.

    Four major under-age sex grooming rings prosecuted in this country since June - all NON gay, straight male and with a deep religious faith. And religion has the bare-faced cheek, the utter audacity to preach to me about morality. The sooner religion completely dies out, the better - and die out it will.

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    @768 LucyJ
    It is totally pointless trying to get through to you. You go to your church and I'll not go to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.


    Thanks for letting us know what is right and wrong Dave. Much appreciated. In the meantime everything is possible including gay parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    Gollum: Are you seriously suggesting all sex crimes are committed by gay men?

    No I am suggesting that sex crimes are wrong whether the person committing such crime is straight or gay

    Boy Scouts in USA are allowing gay youth but not gay leaders because there have been many cases of gay men in the past who became leaders to assault youth which is why they are banned from such here

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    @16 "Newsflash: Religion hinders Civilisation. Again."

    You know what Jason, you're right. Tell you what, let's condemn everyone who chooses to believe in something by sending them to concentration camps - I mean, it's not as if anyone in history has ever been persecuted because of their religion? So let's just execute any religious dissenters lest they hold back the human race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    Homosexuality is a topic that can seldom be an open discussion when more than 2 or 3 people are involved.
    I remember having my first introduction at university, in the 1970's, and feeling uneasy discussing it; but never outraged.
    As a straight male, but with several gay friends, I only find the aggressive points of view from both sides to be distasteful.

    Hatred comes too easily to the human race!

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    @ 778. mrwobbles

    What's possible and what's right are not always the same thing. Gay relationships are about consent but does a child have a choice in the matter of having sane sex parent's. Is it possible that choosing a gay relationship is a choice that forfeits being a parent. I know this isn't going to be well received but there you go.


Page 1 of 40


More India stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.