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Published: Wednesday December 11, 2013 MYT 2:47:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday December 11, 2013 MYT 2:50:42 PM

India rules gay sex illegal

NEW DELHI: India's Supreme Court Wednesday upheld a colonial-era law criminalising homosexuality in a landmark judgment that crushes activists' hopes for guarantees on sexual freedom in the world's biggest democracy.

A two-judge bench cancelled a Delhi High Court ruling in 2009 that section 377 of the Indian penal code prohibiting people from engaging in "carnal acts against the order of nature" infringed the fundamental rights of Indians.

"It is up to parliament to legislate on this issue," Judge G.S. Singhvi, the head of the two-man bench, said in the ruling which found the ban to be constitutionally valid.

The Delhi High Court decision was strongly opposed by religious groups, particularly leaders of India's Muslim and Christian communities, who appealed to the Supreme Court.

"Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day for the community," Arvind Narayan, a lawyer of the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.

"We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court."

Protests were expected later Wednesday from the gay community that is still largely closeted but was emboldened by the 2009 ruling.

Though prosecutions under section 377 are rare, conviction carries a fine and a maximum 10-year jail sentence and it is used by police to harass gay couples, activists say.

"We will explore all options, probably look into the option of a review petition," T. Tandon, a lawyer appearing for Naz Foundation, a non-profit group that works with HIV-AIDS patients, said outside the court house.

"The movement of gay rights is so much stronger now. It is not 2001, it is 2013. You can't have a decision like this." - AFP

Tags / Keywords: India, Gay, LGBT

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