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Indian Supreme Court Will Reconsider Colonial-Era Sodomy Law

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014

India's Supreme Court has announced that it will hear arguments on whether to reconsider December's decision to uphold that country's colonial-era sodomy law, Section 377.

Buzzfeed reports that this is gay rights advocates' final chance to ditch the law, after a 12-year litigation process that culminated in the Delhi High Courts dismissal of Section 377 in 2009, suspending its enforcement.

"The criminalization of homosexuality condemns in perpetuity a sizable section of society and forces them to live their lives in the shadow of harassment, exploitation, humiliation, cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the law enforcement machinery," the court ruled in 2009. "In our view, Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the LGBTs are."

The cast was later referred to parliament and the Supreme Court overruled the lower court decision in what the Lawyers Collective called "a major setback to LGBT rights."

This time, advocates hope they will have better luck. Last week, a different two-judge Supreme Court panel issued a sweeping verdict recognizing broad rights for transgender people. Although they explicitly said they weren't offering an opinion on Section 377, their ruling reportedly reads like a point-by-point rebuttal of the previous ruling.

"We've got our day in court," said Arvind Narrain, a Bangalore-based lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum who has been working on the 377 litigation. "This is a bit of hope."

The court is expected to set a date for the hearing next week. This is the last chance for LGBT activists to get this decision -- and Section 377 -- tossed out. This is thanks to the new curative petition founded in 2002, which allows a five-judge panel (including the two judges who rejected the review petition) to convene and reconsider the issues in what is known as a review petition. Advocates warn that it faces long odds.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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