India arrested hundreds last year under colonial-era anti-gay law

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Hundreds of people were arrested last year under India’s Colonial era anti-gay law.

Homosexuality is illegal in India under freshly-reinstated Section 377 of the penal code, originally based on outdated British law.

The century-old law was brought back into effect by India’s Supreme Court in 2013, outlawing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.

The Times of India reported this week that arrests under the law had surged since its reinstatement, based on data from the  National Crime Records Bureau.

There were 1,491 arrests in 2015 under Section 377.

Nearly all of those arrested were men, though 207 minors and 16 women among those arrested under the law.

Due to the vague nature of the law and lack of accurate data, it is often hard to distinguish between people charged over consenting and non-consenting sexual acts.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party MPs have consistently resisted bids to repeal the law, and in March a private members bill on the issue was voted down by a vote of 58 to 14.

Home Secretary Rajnath Singh insisted previously: “We support Section 377 (the law) because we believe that homosexuality is (an) unnatural act that cannot be supported.”

A number of countries have pressured India to overturn its ban on gay sex and respect human rights regardless of sexual orientation.

Earlier this year, during a visit to the country, Sir Ian McKellen said: “We changed [our laws] long back in England, but you are holding on to it to protect yourselves from western culture.”

Sir Ian also told the Mumbai Mirror that “India needs to grow up”.

Currently, violation of the law can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.