Last week’s report that India’s Supreme Court had issued a ruling upholding the criminalization of gay sex was shocking.  And, LGBT activists in India have organized and responded quickly.

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Derek Mitchell, the Director of the UUA’s Holdeen India Program writes from New Delhi that,

“This development has been deeply disturbing and was largely unexpected. The ruling party in India has taken the position that this decision should be overturned, either legislatively or through executive action. The LGBT activist organizations that brought the initial case to court have said they will file an appeal so it can be heard by a larger bench of judges.”

The UU United Nations Office is also consulting with interfaith partners about a collective response.  The UU-UNO has monitored press accounts in India which indicate widespread criticism of the Supreme Court striking down of the 2009 High Court ruling which struck down the British colonial era law which criminalized same-gender love.  Many prominent political leaders want to see this criminal ban removed, so there is hope that the Indian Parliament will do what the Supreme Court failed to do and end the criminalization of same-gender love.

Updates will be posted here in the days ahead.

UNAIDS calls on India and all countries to repeal laws that criminalize adult consensual same sex sexual conduct

GENEVA/NEW DELHI, 12 December 2013—UNAIDS expresses its deep concern that, through its recent decision on the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court of India has re-criminalized adult consensual same sex sexual conduct. In 2009, the Delhi High Court had found unconstitutional the application of the 150-year-old law criminalizing “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” between consenting adults. Now, again in India, gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

“The Delhi High Court decision in 2009 had restored dignity for millions of people in India, and was an example of the type of reform we need for supportive legal environments that are necessary for effective national AIDS responses,” said the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé. “We want government and civil society to be able to provide HIV information and services to all people, including gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and for them to be able to access the services without fear of criminalization.”

The 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court to annul the law was widely considered a milestone against homophobia and towards zero HIV-related discrimination. In the past four years since the law was annulled, there has been a more than 50% increase in the number of sites providing HIV services for gay and other men who have sex with men, as well as transgender people in India.

For the protection of public health and human rights, UNAIDS calls on India and all countries to repeal laws that criminalize adult consensual same sex sexual conduct. Such criminalization hampers HIV responses across the world. These laws not only violate human rights but also make it more difficult to deliver HIV prevention and treatment services to a population which is particularly affected by HIV. On average globally, gay and other men who have sex with men are 13 times more likely than the rest of the population to be living with HIV.

UNAIDS urges all governments to protect the human rights of gay and other men who have sex with men, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, through repealing criminal laws against adult consensual same sex sexual conduct; implementing laws to protect them from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia; and ensuring that adequate health services are provided to address their needs.

In the 2011 United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, all UN Member States committed to removing legal barriers and passing laws to protect vulnerable populations. 

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About the Author
Rev. Eric Cherry


  1. Brandon Gommer

    The Indian supreme courts should do the right thing and allow same sex love. Love is love and no matter what you truly uphold on the country, people will not change. Please be compassionate and understanding. Nobody wants to be criminalizes for loving someone.

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