‘Black day’ for freedom of India: Amnesty International India

Gay rights activists on Wednesday described as “appalling and regressive’’ the Supreme Court verdict upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, overturning the Delhi High Court ruling of 2009 that decriminalised adult consensual same sex conduct.

Division Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyay has let down the constitutional vision of an equal and inclusive society and violated the fundamental tenets of the Constitution, the Naz Foundation said soon after the judgement was pronounced.

While the government, on its part, said it would abide by the court verdict and bring in a new law, the BJP chose to remain silent.

Outrage on social media

Those active on social media posted their anger and disappointment against the order on Twitter and Facebook. The story was picked up and splashed in a big way by the international media too.

The 2.5-million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is categorised as a high-risk group by the Department of AIDS Control, as prevalence of HIV infection among them is close to 7 per cent as against less than 1 per cent in others. India has cut down HIV infections by 57 per cent through its inclusive public health schemes.

“I am extremely disappointed with the judgment. The movement for LGBT equality is unstoppable and none of use is going back into closets. We will be filing a review of the present decision as soon as it is available,’’ said Anand Grover, senior counsel and Director of Lawyers Collective who represented Naz Foundation in both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.

Expressing solidarity with the activists, Amnesty International India said the ruling marked a ‘black day’ for freedom of India. Its chief executive G. Ananthapadmanabhan said, “It is hard not to feel let down by this judgment, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights.”

Gay rights activists, however, found solace in Additional Solicitor-General of Indira Jaising, who said the court position was an imposition of a “medieval mindset” on the people of the country.

She sought to know why the court put the ball in the court of legislature to decide on the issue when so many other matters and policies were being reviewed by it. “It is surprising that the court, which does judicial review on many issues, has put the ball in the court of Parliament to decide on homosexuality.”

The ruling was, however, welcomed by Amod Kanth, general secretary of Prayas, who was chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), the only government body that challenged the High Court verdict.

All other petitioners were faith-based organisations and individuals.

Mr. Kanth said Section 377 was the only protection for sexual offences against men and boys.

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