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India Re-imposes Criminal Sanctions for Same-Sex Relationships

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2013 (IPS) - India takes two significant steps into backwardness and gives human rights a heavy blow by re-instating one of the rules in its Penal Code that has been over-turned since 2009, according to a United Nations press release.

Section 377 of India’s Penal Code mandates that anyone found guilty of performing “unnatural acts” is being offensive and should be punished. The British had originally introduced this section of India’s laws, over 150 years ago, when India was one of its colonies.

However, The Delhi High Court, in 2009, had overruled Section 377 on the ruling that the occurrence of any sexual conduct, in private and between consenting adults, is not a crime. The Court said if this act was called criminal, it would be in blatant opposition to the fundamental principles of equality and dignity. The Court also outlined that India’s nondiscrimatory constitution is being ignored under the re-instatement of Section 377.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed her dismay regarding the ruling and commented that “Criminalising private, consensual same-sex sexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified.”

Despite that, India’s top court yesterday declared Section 377 to be constitutionally valid, which means that the High Court’s 2009 decision has now been over-turned and that Section 377 will be re-instated. The matter was brought to the country’s Supreme Court for appeal.

The UNAIDS, in a statement, said the 2009 decision which annulled the law was a huge “milestone against homophobia and towards zero HIV-related discrimination” and calls on India and other countries to repeal laws that criminalize adult consensual same sex sexual conduct.

UNAIDS stated that such criminalization gets in the way of responses to HIV across the world,  making it more difficult for the delivery of HIV treatment services to a population particularly affected by HIV. Since the annulling the law an increase of more than 50 began providing HIV services for homosexuals, lesbians and transgender people in India.

Pillay encouraged the Indian Parliament to take definitive action against criminalising same-sex conduct and relationships. She also expressed her wishes for a review of the case before a larger panel of judges as it would open doors for the reconsidering of all relevant arguments.

“The Supreme Court of India has a long and proud history of defending and expanding protection of human rights.” Pillay said. “This decision is a regrettable departure from that tradition as the laws not only violate human rights.”

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