Last edited: February 14, 2005

Gay Rights Group Challenges India’s Sodomy Law

The Advocate, December 10, 2001

A gay rights group in New Delhi is challenging the Indian government’s classification of gay sex as a criminal offense, according to The Times of India.

The Naz Foundation, which advocates for gay rights and HIV/AIDS support and education, has filed a petition with New Delhi’s high court seeking to exclude gay sex from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which reads, "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 a term which may extend to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine." The foundation contends that the penal code provision not only violates the right to life and liberty as outlined in the Indian constitution but also impedes the effective control of AIDS.

The foundation argues that private, consensual adult sexual relations fall within the classification of intimate associations protected from government intrusion under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. In its petition the group asserts that Section 377 creates an arbitrary and unreasonable classification between heterosexual and homosexual sexual acts that is violative of the right to equal protection before and under the law, adding that there exists no compelling state interest to justify the curtailment of such an important element in the fundamental right to life and liberty.

The foundation goes on to say that Section 377 is discriminatory because it criminalizes predominantly homosexual acts and imposes traditional gender stereotypes of "natural" sexual roles for men and women upon sexual minorities. In effect, the foundation says, Section 377 provides moral and legal sanction for the continued social discrimination of sexuality minorities.

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