Decriminalising Homosexuality in India

Posted: 3 Feb 2010

Date Written: November 1, 2009


This paper examines the successful fight against the provision in Section 377 of the Penal Code of India that criminalised private consensual sex between adults of the same sex. This law had led to serious discrimination against people engaging in homosexual acts, who were subjected to frequent beatings and blackmail attempts by police, who used the threat of prosecution against them. NGOs working with sexual minorities have also been harassed and sometimes charged under Section 377. By stigmatising homosexuality and threatening gay men with prison, the law is also likely to have impeded the battle against HIV. The provision was read down in July 2009 after an innovative, sustained, mass media campaign by activists. The Voices Against 377 coalition brought together sexuality and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations, who were previously marginalised, with groups working in areas such as children's rights and feminist groups, showing that support for non-discrimination towards sexual minorities was broad-based. Further legal and social changes are needed for LGBT individuals to gain full acceptance and equality within Indian society. However, the judgement transcended the LGBT issue with the implication of protection for all minorities and introduced for the first time in South Asia the idea of sexual citizenship.

Keywords: advocacy and political process, homosexuality, law and policy, LGBT organisations, sexual rights, India

Suggested Citation

Misra, Geetanjali, Decriminalising Homosexuality in India (November 1, 2009). Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 17, No. 34, pp. 20-28, November 2009, Available at SSRN:

Geetanjali Misra (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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