NEW DELHI -- For the first time, prominent members of the LGBT community in India have moved the Supreme Court against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex for being "against the order of nature."
Dancer N.S. Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur, have filed a petition to quash S.377, arguing that this provision hurts their Right To Life, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, The Times of India reported today.
Significantly, this is first time that people who are actually hurt by S. 377 have challenged its constitutional validity. The battle for gay rights, so far, has been led by the Naz Foundation, and other groups, which advocate equal rights for sexual minorities.
"The petitioners are lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) citizens of India whose rights to sexuality, sexual autonomy, choice of sexual partner, life, privacy, dignity and equality, along with the other fundamental rights guaranteed under Part-III of Constitution, are violated by Section 377," the petition reads.
Overturning an earlier Delhi High Court ruling to decriminalize S.377, a 2013 Supreme Court decision upheld a ban on gay sex, a move which was widely condemned as regressive. The Supreme Court ruled that only the Indian Parliament could overturn the colonial-era statute.
That outlook appeared to be rather bleak especially after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party formed the majority in the Lok Sabha in the summer of 2014, although some leaders of the BJP and its big brother, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, appear to have softened their previously inflexible position against homosexuality.
In February, however, the Supreme Court heard curative petitions challenging the 2013 decision, the final legal recourse left to activists, and agreed to examine whether S.377 is constitutional.
This latest petition will reinforce the growing momentum against 3.77, and add impetus to the pending petitions by Naz Foundation and other groups which support gay rights.
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