THE BLOG
07/02/2009 02:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Big Victory for Gay Rights in India

Originally published on GroundReport.com, the world's most trusted citizen journalism network.

By Jagan T

At last, Delhi's High Court has legalized homosexuality. The court has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act.

The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence." The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and made them illegal, was an "antithesis of the right to equality." Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence. Rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights. Many people in India regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate. Delhi's High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a "violation of fundamental rights."

In 2004, the Indian government opposed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality - a petition the high court in Delhi dismissed. But rights groups and the Indian government's HIV/Aids control body have demanded that homosexuality be legalised. The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) has said that infected people were being driven underground and efforts to curb the virus were being hampered. According to one estimate, more than 8% of homosexual men in India were infected with HIV, compared to fewer than 1% in the general population.

Gay rights activists all over the country welcomed the ruling and said it was "India's Stonewall." New York's Stonewall riot in 1969 is credited with launching the gay rights movement.

Leading gay rights activist and the editor of India's first gay magazine Ashok Row Kavi welcomed the judgement but said the stigma against homosexuals will persist.

But the decision was greeted with unease by other groups. Father Dominic Emanuel of India's Catholic Bishop Council said the church did not "approve" of homosexual behaviour.

Below, photos from the June 28th Bangalore Gay Pride Parade show a community in celebration. Credit: lighttripper on Flickr.

Jagan is a former professional journalist based in India. Go to GroundReport.com for more coverage from India. GroundReport is a citizen journalism platform that allows anyone to publish global news and earn money.