UK
11/12/2013 04:41 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

Gay Sex Is Illegal, Rules Indian Supreme Court

UPDATE: Indian Government Requests Review Of Gay Sex Ban

India’s Supreme Court has ruled gay sex as a criminal offence, making it punishable with a prison term of up to ten years.

The ruling reversed a 2009 decision of the Delhi High Court, which decriminalised relations between people of the same sex.

Announcing its decision on Wednesday, the supreme court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue and upheld the constitutional validity of Section 311 of India’s penal code - which dates back to 1860.

india gay rights

Protestors outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that a colonial-era law criminalising homosexuality will remain in effect

The code bans “carnal acts against the order of nature”, widely interpreted to mean gay sex.

The rule dates back to the days of British colonial rule in India, a country which is now the world’s largest democracy.

“Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day,” Arvind Narrain, a lawyer for the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group told reporters.

“We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court.”

gay sex illegal in india

Gay rights activists shout slogans after the annoucement

A spokesman for gay rights charity Stonewall tells HuffPost UK: "This decision will come as a huge disappointment to equality campaigners in India and around the world.

"We'll continue to support activists in India who are fighting every single day to repeal this antiquated and draconian law."

According to the BBC, the law has rarely – if ever - been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, though it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals.

The decision could now be appealed through a so-called "curative petition", which would be heard by a panel of five judges, Reuters writes.

Mohammad Abdul Rahim Quraishi, a spokesman for the All India Muslim Personal Law Board welcomed the decision.

"There is no space for homosexuality in our social setup. It is a sin, it is a heinous crime," he said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The 2009 ruling which decriminalised gay sex was the result of a case brought by the Naz Foundation, an Indian sexual rights organisation which said the law was hindering its battle to reduce the transmission of HIV.

The announcement comes almost a year to the date after the death of a 23-year-old gang rape victim, which sent women's rights to the top of India's social agenda.

Four men found guilty of her death were sentenced to death in September.

Photo galleryGay rights in India See Gallery