An Indian court has ruled for the first time that consensual gay sex is not a crime, signalling an historic breakthrough for the country’s largely closet homosexual community, as well as anti-HIV/Aids campaigners.
Under a British colonial law, introduced by Lord Macaulay in 1860, homosexual intercourse is ranked alongside paedophilia and bestiality as “sex against nature” and punishable by up to ten years in prison.
India is one of the few democracies in the world to still have such a law.
But the Delhi High Court ruled today that applying the law - known as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code - to consenting adults violated the Constitution and international human rights conventions.
“Consensual sex amongst adults is legal which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes,” a two-judge bench said after considering a petition against the law for more than eight years.
The ruling is non-binding outside Delhi, and can be appealed at the Supreme Court, but is being hailed nonetheless as a landmark in an increasingly vocal campaign to have Section 377 repealed.
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