More than 100 leading figures of literature, film and academia in India rallied this weekend against a colonial-era law which makes homosexuality a criminal offence.

Included in amongst the 100 influential signatories were the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, and the Booker prizewinner Arundhati Roy.

Indian author Vikram Seth said the law had been used to “systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorise sexual minorities”, reports the Guardian.

The legislation, which came into effect during British rule in India, bans “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. Campaigners have lodged a petition with the high court in Delhi challenging the law which will be heard next month. However, the government has already told supreme court judges that public opinion is not in favour of a change.

India’s literary elite join worldwide condemnation of section 377 of the Indian penal code which criminalises homosexual love and private consensual acts between adults of the same sex.

Section 377 perpetuates Victorian-era antipathy and bigotry towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community . With an Indian population of over 1 billion, this law discriminates against what is estimated to be hundreds of millions of people.

The campaign got a recent boost when the official Indian HIV/Aids control agency said the law made it harder to check the spread of the virus in India, which has the world’s highest number of infected people. Earlier this year the heir of the former Indian royal family was disinherited after saying he was gay.