Judge: India’s anti-gay law is ‘discriminatory’ and mentally damaging

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The chairman of India’s Law Commission has condemned the country’s Supreme Court for recriminalising homosexuality.

“Section 377 is discriminatory in its application, unreasonable in its intent, deprives a group of its personal autonomy and violates individual privacy and human dignity,” Justice Shah said yesterday in New Delhi at the launch of a book about LGBT rights.

The Supreme Court’s ruling of December 2013 was constitutionally wrong, Justice AP Shah warned.

“Consequences of the laws in our country on gay sex include damage to the psychological well-being of homosexuals, encouragement of violence and facilitation of police harassment and discrimination against the LGBT community.”

Section 377 of India’s penal code bans “sex against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted to mean gay sex, and can be punished with up to 10 years in jail. The rule dates back to the days of British colonial rule in India.

On 11 December 2013 India’s Supreme Court upheld Section 377.

It overturned a 2009 New Delhi High Court decision – issued by Justice Shah – that ruled the law unconstitutional.

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.

So far prosecutions under the law have remained rare – although seven men were arrested under suspicion of breaking Section 377 in Bangalore last summer.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the law as “intolerant” last month.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said: “We are for decriminalising homosexuality. That is the progressive way forward.”