India’s “unnatural sex” law should be revised says High Court judge

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Bombay High Court said last week that the controversial Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that deals with unnatural sex needs revision.

The remarks came in a judgement delivered by Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice Sharad Bobde in the infamous Anchorage paedophilia case last Wednesday.

”There are lots of changes taking place in the social milieu and many people have different sexual preferences, which are even not considered to be unnatural,’’ said the judgement by Justice Nazki.

”Therefore it is high time that the provisions of law which was made more than a century ago, is looked at again.’’

The judge’s remarks are not binding, but the city’s lesbian and gay community welcomed the progressive views of the judge as they are the first time any court in the country has spoken about changing the law.

”It is a significant and forward looking view,’’ said Lesley Esteves, a Delhi-based activist, told The Times of India.

”Across the world countries have decriminalised homosexuality, but the law continues to exist on our statutes.’’

Section 377 was enacted in 1860 under the British Raj in line with the anti-sodomy laws in England at the time.

The law punishes anyone who “voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” by imprisonment.

Two former Royal British Naval officers, Allan Waters (64) and Duncan Grant (60), who had been convicted on charges of unnatural sex in 2003, were acquitted by the High Court in the paedophilia case along with their Indian manager William D’Souza, saying they were not guilty of sexually abusing boys at the Anchorage shelter home in Colaba.

The men were originally sentenced to six years in jail and fined £20,000.

The High Court agreed with judgements that said that the only ingredients required to prove guilt in such cases is ”if it is against the order of nature.”

This criminalises a whole range of sexual acts from mutual masturbation, to fellatio and anal sex.