NEW DELHI – India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request to reconsider its controversial decision to reinstate a 153-year-old law that criminalizes homosexuality.
Judges dismissed petitions from the government and gay rights activists who said the order violated fundamental human rights.
The Supreme Court ruled in December that Section 377 (unnatural sexual offenses) of the Indian Penal Code was constitutionally valid, and that only lawmakers and not the courts could change the law. The ruling struck down a 2009 lower court decision that decriminalized gay sex.
The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society, and has drawn sharp criticism from human rights advocates worldwide.
The law, dating back to the 1860s, when Britain ruled over South Asia, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
Article continues belowTuesday’s action leaves the government two options: it can either file a curative petition in the Supreme Court, or it can attempt to repeal the law in Parliament.
A curative petition, the final appeal in the legal process, is heard by the Supreme Court’s senior-most judges including the Chief Justice of the country. Repealing the law in parliament could me more difficult for the government, ans the main opposition party, the BJP, has said it backs Section 377.
According to international human rights groups, more than 70 countries have laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, with India by far the most populous.