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India: Bestselling author calls colonial anti-gay law ‘our collective sin’

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Bestselling Indian author Chetan Bhagat has spoken about India’s anti-gay law to say that it contradicts the country’s culture, calling it a “relic of an unscientific, Victorian past.”

In a blog post published on the Times of India website, he wrote: “We make 100 million Indians criminals and go about our daily lives as if their concerns are irrelevant to us. To me, this is nothing short of a collective sin.

“Section 377 is not an Indian law but an inheritance of British law. The same law, with the same section number existed in over 40 colonies of the British empire. Most of them have junked it or modified it to decriminalize homosexuality.

“We have held on to it as if it is part of India’s cultural heritage, whereas it is nothing but a relic of an unscientific, Victorian past.”

Mr Bhagat, cited in the New York Times as “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history,” also warned however that Western gay rights movements would not work in India.

He wrote, “Any breakthrough in gay rights should not spill out on the streets, in the form of Western inspired gay parades or anything that presents being gay as being somewhat fashionable or cool.

“While you have the right to do so, please note that we have to nudge a conservative, almost hostile society towards change. If we freak them out, they will only withdraw further.’

In December last year, the Indian Supreme Court overturned a previous High Court judgment that said Section 377 of India’s penal code was unconstitutional.

Section 377 bans “sex against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted to mean same-sex sexual activity.

The decision caused outrage among LGBT activists and many of the county’s politicians.

Previous attempts by campaigners to reverse the Supreme Court ruling have so far failed.

In June, seven men were arrested under suspicion of breaking Section 377 in Bangalore.

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