THE UK has gone public with its criticism of India for reinstating a colonial era law that effectively bans homosexuality.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises sexual activities that are not for procreation and “against the order of nature.” While homosexuality is not specifically mentioned, the law is widely interpreted as targeting and outlawing gay sex.

Those found guilty can face up to a decade in prison.

Stripped from the statute books in 2009, the Indian Supreme Court reinstated the law last December.

In its judgement, the court said the Indian Parliament should make a final decision on the 130-year-old law that dates from when the sub-continent was part of the British Raj.

In its Human Rights and Democracy Report, published last week, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office criticises the Indian turn-around, albeit in diplomatic tones.

The report says the ruling was “unexpected” and, “there has been widespread public criticism of the decision within India”.

“It is important that India’s democratic institutions work through this issue, taking account of the fact that to render consenting same-sex relations illegal is incompatible with international human rights conventions, including the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights],” the report says.

The first legal same-sex marriage ceremonies in the UK took place in England and Wales last month.

As an out gay man from Mumbai, Kanishka Chuadhry, said he was worried about the implications of reinstating section 377.

“The 2009 judgement was the result of 20 years’ hard work. Now this has all gone to waste. People were shattered, now they can be harassed and bullied”, says Chaudhry, who is currently working in Sydney.

He said the new ruling went against fundamental rights already enshrined in the constitution and ignored the many instances of homosexuality present in centuries-old Indian culture: “By putting this 130-year-old law back in place, thousands of pastimes in the karma sutra have in effect been criminalised.”

And while homosexuality has been criminalised again in India, the country’s Supreme Court this week recognised trans* people as a third gender in a landmark ruling.

According to reports in the BBC. the court ordered the government to provide trans* people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.

It is also estimated that India has about two million trans* people.

Kanishka Chaudhry is one of a number of people interviewed for the Star Observer’s new monthly edition about the challenges and opportunities that come with living as an LGBTI person overseas and how this has formed their view of being gay in Australia. Pick up the Star Observer from today in Sydney and Melbourne, and from tomorrow in Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. 



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