India: Police arrest seven in first apparent case since recriminalisation of homosexuality

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Police in India have arrested seven men accused of blackmail and same-sex sexual acts, in what is apparently the first case since the reintroduction last year of a law to criminalise homosexuality.

The men, aged 19 to 22, in Bangalore, India, were alleged involved in a blackmail scheme through which they extorted money from a doctor, after the group filmed some of its members having sex with him.

The doctor eventually reported the group to the police, after being blackmailed on two occasions for the equivalent of approximately £15,000 in total.

The seven men have been arrested “under section 377 (unnatural sex) and 384 (extortion)” of the Indian Penal Code, according to a report in the Bangalore Mirror, which claims that “the doctor was a 52-year-old married man with a family”.

Bangalore’s Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) told the publication: “While we are not sure if this is the first case being filed under section 377 of the IPC following the Supreme Court ruling, this is definitely one of the rare complaints to be registered.”

Section 377 dates to 1861 and criminalises consensual “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted as a ban on gay sex.

It was ruled unconstitutional by the New Delhi High Court in 2009, following which India has seen pride events for the first time.

Yet in December last year the Indian Supreme Court overturned the earlier decision and reinstated the ban on gay sex.

In May, Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor said that the anti-gay law contradicted India’s culture, and expressed a hope for same-sex relationships to be shown in Bollywood films.

Bangalore’s Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) told the Bangalore Mirror that an investigation will be held to determine whether the sex was consensual on the part of the doctor. If so, he will also be arrested under Section 377.

Earlier this month, the World Bank calculated that homophobia costs the Indian economy $30.8 billion.