India: Ex-Chief Justice slams anti-gay law on 1st year anniversary

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A former Chief Justice of India’s Supreme Court has condemned the country’s ban on same-sex relationships a year to the day the law was reintroduced.

K G Balakrishnan, Chair of the National Human Rights Commission of India, spoke out today at an LGBT rally and public meeting in Mumbai.

The event, attended by around 500 people, was organised by Alliance India, an HIV support group.

Mr Balakrishnan, who served as Chief Justice from 2007 until 2010, said: “Human rights of the LGBT community need protection, and they should not be categorised as criminals.”

At the meeting members from the LGBT community spoke about the brutality they have faced.

One said: “The December 11th (2013) verdict has made our already vulnerable community even more vulnerable to violence at the hands of police. I was threatened and assaulted so badly for being gay that I have lost the ability to hear from my right ear.”

Another incident detailed was the arrest of 13 gay men on Diwali night in Hassan district, Karnataka on the grounds of violating the law. “Our identity was made public and as a consequence we were socially ostracised, ridiculed by family, bullied by neighbours and even lost our jobs,” said one of the men.

James Robertson, executive director of Alliance India, described how LGBT Indians have been left marginalised by society.

“Many families reject them and push them further to society’s margins, increasing their vulnerability to a range of harms, including HIV. We must join together to fight the insidious impact of homophobia and transphobia,” he said.

On 11 December 2013 India’s Supreme Court upheld a colonial-era law which criminalises same-sex sexual activity.

It overturned a 2009 New Delhi High Court decision that ruled the law unconstitutional.

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

The Supreme Court stated that only India’s Parliament could change the law, by deleting a section of the penal code dating back to the 19th century, thus ruling that the Delhi High Court had overstepped its powers with its decision five years ago.

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

A curative petition by the Indian Government, requiring a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court to intervene in the appeal of Section 377, has yet to be taken up.

A pride march in protest of the law took place in Delhi at the end of last month.