India's Top Court Outlaws Gay Sex
Ruling reinstates colonial-era law
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2013 12:58 AM CST
Updated Dec 11, 2013 3:57 AM CST
Gay rights activists display a rainbow-colored banner as they march in New Delhi, India last month.   (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
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(Newser) – A huge step backward for gay rights in India: The top court in the country of 1.2 billion has ruled to reinstate a colonial-era law that makes gay sex illegal. The 148-year-old law, which labeled homosexual acts an "unnatural offense" punishable by up to 10 years in jail, was struck down by a lower court in 2009. India's Supreme Court said the earlier ruling was unconstitutional and it was up to lawmakers to legislate on the issue, reports the AP. The law was rarely enforced in the years before it was struck down but police sometimes used it to bully gays or disrupt the work of AIDS charities, the New York Times notes.

The decision was swiftly condemned by gay rights groups who called it "disappointing" and "regressive," the BBC finds. "This decision is a body-blow to people's rights to equality, privacy, and dignity," a spokesman for Amnesty International India said in a statement. "It is hard not to feel let down by this judgement, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights." The decision was hailed, however, by religious groups, especially Christian and Muslim leaders.