June 30, 2016

INDIA: Government To Clarify In Supreme Court Its Stand On Homosexuality. It's Currently illegal. Prominent Gay Indians Join Battle To End Criminalization Of Homosexuality.

The Hindu, India
written by Staff
Thursday June 29, 2016

Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday clarified that the government would make its stand known before the Supreme Court on Wednesday on the issue of decriminalising gay sex among consenting adults.

It is currently an offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Stating that he could not divulge the details as the matter was sub judice, Mr. Gowda told the media: “The government has already discussed the issue of 377 with the Attorney General. We will place our arguments before the Supreme Court.”

In February, the Supreme Court indicated that it would refer to a larger Bench a batch of petitions filed by NGOs led by the Naz Foundation.

These petitions had sought the apex court to have a relook at its earlier judgment upholding Section 377.

Sexual freedom

The new writ petition, listed for hearing before a Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and Ashok Bhushan on Wednesday, was filed by several celebrities including chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and dancer N. S. Johar. They argued that sexual freedom was part of the fundamental rights protected by the Constitution.

Section 377 had inexorably constricted the rights, they argued.

Denied their right

“Despite their achievements and contributions to India in various fields, they are being denied the right to sexuality, the most basic and inherent of fundamental rights. Section 377 [unnatural sexual act] renders them criminals in their own country,” their petition stated.

In 2013, the apex court set aside the Delhi High Court judgment of July 2, 2009, de-criminalising Section 377, saying that the decision should be left entirely within the domain of Parliament.
The Washington Post
written by Rama Lakshmi
Tuesday June 28, 2016

NEW DELHI — A group of gay Indians who are prominent in their fields have joined together to petition the Supreme Court on Wednesday to demand the scrapping of a dreaded colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexuality, adding their weight to a decade-and-a-half-old legal battle.

When the high court resumes work after its 45-day summer break on Wednesday, it is likely to hear the petition filed by a celebrity chef, a hotelier, a writer, a business executive and a classical dancer who argue that the law — called Section 377 of the Indian penal code — violates their right to life. The law is routinely abused by policemen to harass gay people and demand bribes.

The new petition said that “sexual expression, in whatever form, between consenting adults in the privacy of a home ought to receive protection of fundamental rights."

This is the first time prominent gays from varied walks of life have come forward in the battle to win a legal victory.

The petition said that the petitioners are “highly accomplished professionals who have been felicitated for their professional achievements, but have suffered because of the deleterious effect of this draconian law on their personal and professional lives."

India’s minister for law and justice, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, told reporters that the government has discussed the fresh petition with the attorney general.

“We will place our arguments in front of the Supreme Court and the decision will be taken today on what stand the central government needs to take,” Gowda said. “Cannot say more on the issue as the matter is sub judice.”

In December 2013, India’s gay community suffered a setback when the Supreme Court overturned a historic 2009 lower-court ruling that said homosexuality was not a crime. The landmark ruling in 2009 led to a brief period of celebration and coming-out parades.

But several religious, cultural and political groups filed appeals and the community had to start all over again. The Supreme Court upheld Section 377 and said homosexuality was “against the order of nature” and said only the country’s parliament can decide to change the law.

An appeal by a longtime gay rights advocacy group called the Naz Foundation was dismissed.

The fresh petition on Wednesday will argue that Section 377 violates the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian constitution.

Some members of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party have supported decriminalizing homosexuality.

Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the party, had said in 2014 that even though he does not endorse “glorification of certain forms of social behavior,” he finds it questionable that homosexuality is treated as a crime in “this day and age.”

But the lower house of parliament voted twice in the past six months against a move by Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from the opposition Congress party, to decriminalize homosexuality.

On Twitter, many welcomed the new petition.

Rama Lakshmi has been with The Post's India bureau since 1990. She is a staff writer and India social media editor for Post World. Follow @RamaNewDelhi

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