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'One of World's Oldest Bans' on Gay Sex Is No More

Colonial-era law banning homosexuality has been overturned by India's Supreme Court
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 6, 2018 6:33 AM CDT
In this June 28, 2009, file photo, participants dance as they hold a placard demanding the dropping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes homosexuality illegal, during a gay parade in New...   (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan, File)

(Newser) – Calling sexual orientation "one of the many natural phenomena," the chief justice of India's Supreme Court made a big announcement Thursday about one of the nation's colonial-era laws. The Guardian reports India's highest court has struck down a 160-year-old law banning consensual gay sex, with another justice noting that "history owes an apology to members of the [gay] community for the delay in ensuring their rights" by keeping Section 377 on the books. The ruling follows nearly 25 years of waffling by India's judicial system on the issue, including the striking down of the law in 2009, followed by an overturning of that decision four years later by the Supreme Court. They found the law's incredibly infrequent use meant it wasn't violating citizens' constitutional rights; a separate 2017 privacy ruling caused the justices to reconsider the decision.

LGBT advocates say not many have been prosecuted under the law—which the New York Times characterizes as "one of the world's oldest bans on consensual gay sex"—but that gays and lesbians face constant discrimination and can even be discouraged from seeking treatment for HIV because of it. The ruling is also a rebuke of British colonial rule in the 1860s, when the law was spurred by Victorian-era mores. The co-author of a homophobia report tells CNN 30 of nearly 50 former British colonies still have the colonial-era anti-LGBT laws on the books; Al Jazeera notes nearby Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh still consider homosexuality illegal. "We have thrown out the British once again," one activist says, per the Guardian. (Read more India stories.)

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