09/06/2018, 17.00
INDIA
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Indian Supreme Court says gay sex is not a crime

The court struck parts of Section 377 of the Penal Code, which dates back to the heyday of British India. The rule punished offenders with imprisonment for up to 10 years. In 2016, 2,187 cases were filed under it.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – In a historic decision, the Indian Supreme Court this morning ruled that sexual relations between consenting adults is no longer a crime.

After years of battles by LGBT groups in defence of gay rights, the court has now decided that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of human rights.

Its decision has largely met with approval across the country. Mgr Savio Fernandes, of the archdiocese of Mumbai, notes that "The Catholic Church has never considered homosexuality a crime. Punishment against gays must cease. Everyone deserves respect and inclusion."

In their ruling, reached by a majority vote, the justices struck down those parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that define relations between persons of the same sex as an “unnatural offence”. If convicted, offenders could expect to get a 10-year jail term.

The Indian Penal Code to which the section belonged was introduced in 1861 under India’s British rulers.

The court said that other aspects of section 377 dealing with unnatural sex with animals and children would remain in force.

Although most Indians living in large cities were in favour of abolishing the anti-same-sex provision of Section 377, pockets of opposition remain among conservative religious circles and in rural areas.

A decisive step towards decriminalisation of homosexual relations came last July when the Union government announced that it would not oppose the Supreme Court on this matter.

For LGBT activists, Section 377 was a "relic" of imperial rule.

According to official data, 2,187 cases were filed in 2016 for "unnatural offences". Seven people were tried, convicted and jailed. Another 16 were acquitted.

In total, 72 countries continue to outlaw same-sex relations.

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