Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley
(pic: Ganeshk)

Religious leaders have spoken out against news that the Indian government is planning to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexuality.

The law, which was set down over 100 years ago during British colonial rule, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

India’s home ministry has consistently opposed any change to Section 377, arguing that it is the only law on the statute books that can be applied in cases of child abuse and male rape.

However, home minister P Chidambaram has said that the ministry’s view has changed, and he himself favours the repeal of the law.

The health ministry also favours the repeal, arguing that gay men are vulnerable to HIV/Aids and so discrimination against them should end. However, there is pressure from various religious groups to keep Section 377 in the statute books.

Meanwhile, Bollywood star Celina Jaitley has supported the government’s move towards legalising homosexuality.

“It’s high time we wake up and accept homosexuality. I’m very happy that our new, young government has woken up and wants to repeal this law… This shows the new modern face of India to the new world,” she said.

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