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Current Affairs

Indian gay ban may be reversed

Marc Shoffman February 14, 2006

KOLKATA, INDIA: Indian members of the Integration Society, an organization committed to the defence of human rights and sexual freedom, apply make-up as they take part in a march entitled "Walk on the Rainbow" in Kolkata, 26 June 2005 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, said to be the birth of the Gay Liberation Movement. Some hundred members took part in the march even as homosexuality in India stands criminalized because of a mid 19th century colonial law, as the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code enacted by the British in 1860 criminalizes what it calls, "sexual offences against the order of nature". AFP PHOTO/DESHAKALYAN chowdhury (Photo credit should read DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images)

As you cuddle up to your partner for Valentines night this evening, spare a thought for Indian gay couples in New Delhi who face arrest for declaring their love.

Gay sex has been banned in India since colonial times. The Supreme Court told the Delhi High Court to take another look at a petition, which has pleased sexual rights groups.

Anjali Gopalan, director of sexual rights group, the Naz Foundation, told the Agence France Presse, “The very fact that the Supreme Court didn’t throw this out says a lot,”

“I think there is a change and I’m hoping it gets reflected in our judicial system.”

Critics don’t expect the law to be abolished completely as it is also used to prosecute child sex crimes.

Activists also believe changing the legal status of same-sex relations would make it easier for gays and lesbians to think about coming out to their families and resist the overwhelming pressure to get married.

Rahul Singh, who runs the outreach programs for Naz said: “Parents say it’s a passing phase and once (my son) is married it will pass. They say I don’t want him to be criminalized. Many of them end up living a dual life.”

Opponents of a law change say India is not ready to accept homosexuality. This concern has also been echoed by the government.

But Mr Singh said: “Change in a society takes time, but the law has to take the first step.”

Hindu rightwingers in the country have threatened to target even straight couples celebrating Valentines Day which forces gay couples to be even more secretive.

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