Legal to be gay, in spite of government
How telling it is that India’s ruling party stayed silent on one of the most vital civil rights issues of our times, said Krishnadas Rajagopal. In a historic decision last week, the Indian Supreme Court overturned Section 377 of the criminal code—a 157-year-old colonial law that banned homosexual acts, making them punishable by up to 10 years in prison. One would have expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government to take a stand on the issue—either for or against—but it declined to do so, saying it would leave the decision to “the wisdom of the court.” The court was not pleased with this abdication. Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud wrote that the government was derelict in offering no opinion about a law that “typecasts LGBTQ individuals as sex offenders, categorizing their consensual conduct on par with sexual offenses like rape.” That status had become a public health issue, he wrote, since the stigma associated with being part of a criminal class caused gay Indians to avoid public health providers, compromising the fight against HIV/AIDS. Gay and lesbian Indians are now celebrating: The ruling said their sexual orientation was “intrinsic to their dignity.” Their political leaders, though, still have no comment.