India Delivers Victory for LGBTQ Community

In a groundbreaking decision earlier this month, India’s courts overturned a 157-year-old ban on consensual intercourse between gay adults.

The ban, originally established during the British colonization of India, threatened same-gender couples with a maximum penalty of life in prison. Mr. Samuel King, instructor of philosophy and religion, said, “India has held onto Victorian norms. The restrictions against homosexuality are largely a byproduct of a specific idea of gender and sexuality, relating to proper Victorian norms of behavior. Progressive forces and social activists have won a great victory in this repeal.”

The Indian Supreme Court Justices voted against Section 377, which criticized gay sex as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” on the grounds that the ban violated citizens’ rights. Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, who acted as head of the five-judge bench, said during the ruling, “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates fundamental rights.”

The global LGBTQ community and its allies celebrated this victory as an important step toward equality for same-gender couples worldwide. Talya Li ’19, head of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), said, “In legalizing consensual gay sex, India paves the way for [further discussion of equal legal rights for]  its LGBTQ citizens.”

Some socially conservative groups in India denounced the repeal for violating a sense of tradition. Subramanian Swamy, a member of the Indian parliament said, “This verdict could give rise to other issues, such as an increase in the amount of HIV cases.”

Despite pushback from conservative groups, the repeal of the ban is a signal of progress for many who hope for similar moves in the more than  30 countries that continue to criminalize gay intercourse (many of which are former British colonies with laws akin to India’s Section 377). Li said, “The repeal of the ban aids the fight towards decriminalizing LGBTQ people all over the world because it shows that even largely conservative countries can recognize their citizens’ right to love.”