High court of New Delhi moves to decriminalize consensual sex between people of the same sex

(San Francisco, CA, July 2, 2009)—Today, the high court of New Delhi, India issued a historic ruling striking down Section 377 which criminalized private consensual sex between individuals of the same sex. The Court ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional based on principles of equality and non-discrimination, and that it violated basic privacy rights.

Section 377 was first codified in the Indian Constitution in 1861 by the British government. The law prohibited any sexual intercourse that was deemed “against the order of nature,” and was used to harass and imprison LGBTQ people. Today, the high court of New Delhi held that section 377 can no longer be applied to criminalize intimacy between consenting adults, finding that it “targets the homosexual community as a class and is motivated by an animus towards this vulnerable class of people.”

The case was brought by the Naz Foundation, an AIDS awareness group who argued that Section 377 violated constitutional guarantees of equal protection and privacy. The group also argued that Section 377 posed a public health risk, making it difficult to educate India’s massive population about HIV/AIDS.

Chief Justice Shah wrote in the opinion that, “where society can display inclusiveness and understanding, such persons can be assured of a life of dignity and nondiscrimination…In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual.”

This historic ruling for India sends a clear message that discrimination against the LGBTQ community will no longer be tolerated.

You can read the decision here: https://www.nclrights.org/site/DocServer/878959371?d_opview=&docID=6141 (pdf)

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.