UN asks India to review gay sex ban

India in gay sex ban

Gay rights activists in India have been horrified by the judgment. Photograph: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner on human rights, describes the high court move as a ‘significant step backwards’

(SOURCE)  The UN has called on the Indian government to seek a rapid review of the country’s supreme court’s decision on Wednesday to criminalise gay sex.

The decision by the court to reinstate a ban on same-sex relationships overturned four years ago by a lower court represents a “significant step backwards for India” and violates international law, Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner on human rights, said.

“Criminalising private, consensual same-sex sexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified,” Pillay, a South African former judge, said in a statement issued in Geneva.

The international support will hearten stunned local campaigners who have waged a long battle for same-sex relations to be legalised in the world’s biggest democracy – though it could strengthen opposition from conservatives who have described homosexuality as a “disease” imported from the west.

Anjali Gopalan, an activist, said she had been “horrified by the judgment”.

“It reflects a conservative mindset. After so much effort we are back to square one. Whatever we have gained over the years we seem to have lost,” Gopalan, director of the Naz Foundation Trust, told the Guardian.

Dozens of Bollywood stars have now come forward to criticise the supreme court’s decision to reinstate Section 377 of India’s penal code which bans “sex against the order of nature” and is widely interpreted to mean gay sex. The colonial-era rule was introduced under British rule in the 19th century.

Aamir Khan, one of India’s biggest film celebrities, described the judgment as “very intolerant and violative of basic human rights”.

Freida Pinto, who starred in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, said on Twitter she was “absolutely appalled by such narrow mindedness”.

The supreme court judges argued that the Delhi high court had overstepped its powers with the decision four years ago as only India’s government could change the law. Section 377 should therefore be reinstated, they said.

Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party on Thursday called on the national assembly “to address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those affected by this judgment”.

Gandhi described Section 377 as “an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on basic human rights” and said that [the Indian] constitution “has given us a great legacy … of liberalism of openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind”.

Kapil Sibal, minister of law, said that the government was “considering all possible options” but that time was short.

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