The Supreme Court of India shocked the world on Wednesday, December 11, by reinstating an old law banning sex between two men.
In 2009, a lower court struck down section 377 of the 1861 law, which states, “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
However, India’s Supreme Court ruled that only Parliament has the authority to change even colonial-era laws, thus reversing the 2009 decision and reinstating this outdated law—one where consensual sex could land both partners in prison.
The LGBT community and activists were shocked by this decision and daunted by the prospect of changing their lives to fit the new standards of this conservative change in law.
“We cannot be forced back into the closet. We are not backing off from our fight against discrimination,” said one activist, Gautam Bhan, as reported by USA Today.
Reports indicate that many activists and citizens were visibly saddened by the reinstatement of the law and were consoling one another outside of the courthouse.
“This is a very sad day for us, we are back to square one in our fight for the democratic rights of the gay community,” said a member of the activist group Humsafar Trust, Ashok Row Kavi.
Lawyers who fought against the law expressed their great disappointment for this setback and reiterated that the fight is not over.
“We feel very let down,” lawyer Anand Grover said. “But our fight is not over and we will continue to fight for the constitutional right.”
In 2009, when the New Deli High Court ruled against this outdated law, they claimed that the law prohibited basic human rights. This verdict enraged conservative and religious groups in India, who believe that sex between two men should stay outlawed.
“Only a man and a woman constitute a family and contribute for the holistic development of a child, which is not possible without a father and a mother,” said Prayas children organization leader Amod Kanth.
India has taken a huge step back on the equality movement front. The country now joins Syria, Pakistan, and Iran (to name just a few) where homosexuality is a criminal offense.