Participants in the Delhi Gay Pride Parade (Pic: Aditya Bondyopadhyay)
India’s LGBT community is in shock after the country’s highest court overturned a previous ruling that had ended the country’s criminalisation of homosexuality.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex, saying that Section 377 of India’s penal code banning “sex against the order of nature” was discriminatory.
Muslim and Christian religious groups took the matter to India’s Supreme Court, which finally ruled on the issue on Wednesday, four years later.
While it was widely expected that the Supreme Court would support the earlier decision, it did the opposite; ruling instead that the Delhi High Court did not have the power to change the law.
The court stated that only the government could change it. “It is up to parliament to legislate on this issue,” said Judge G.S. Singhvi.
He added: “The legislature must consider deleting this provision (Section 377) from law as per the recommendations of the attorney general.”
Amnesty International India’s G Ananthapadmanabhan commented in a statement that, “This decision is a body-blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity.
“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 said.
Last year, the government was slammed for sending mixed messages on the issue. The Ministry of Home Affairs said that “Gay sex is highly immoral and against social order” while the Health Ministry said that it supported the Delhi High Court’s decision.
It is unclear if and when the government will embark on a process of repealing the anti-gay law which punishes homosexuality with up to life imprisonment.