LGBT Activists Succeed In Petitioning Indian Supreme Court To Reconsider Gay Sex Ban

One step closer to freedom.

After nearly three years of living in the shadows, LGBT activists in India rejoiced on Tuesday when the country's Supreme Court announced it would revisit a 2013 decision that reinstated a colonial-era gay sex ban. Supporters of LGBT rights gathered outside the court and celebrated when they heard the decision.

"It is definitely a move forward," lawyer Anand Grover told Reuters.

A trio of senior judges announced the decision to re-examine the law after a petition was filed. The judges called it a "matter of constitutional importance."

If the judges choose to overturn the ban, which imposes a 10-year prison sentence, it will be only the fourth petition to have a high court ruling overturned in India. A date has not been set for the hearing.

The original law banning gay sex dates back to 1860. When the Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in 2009, several political and religious groups responded with a petition to reinstate the law. The Supreme Court reversed its decriminalization decision four years later.

India is one of 75 countries worldwide that outlaw homosexuality, and the country's LGBT community is said to live in fear of being harassed, extorted or prosecuted by government officials. 

Human rights organizations have called on the Supreme Court to lift the ban, and it appears they've been heard.

The majority party in the Parliament of India, the Bharatiya Janata, supports upholding the ban. The opposition recently proposed a law to remove the ban, but the bill was swiftly defeated, 71 to 24. The legislation was not even discussed before the vote, which is reportedly rare.

"It is about principles of freedom enshrined in our constitution," opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor told Reuters. "It's time to take the government out of the bedroom."

A recent online petition of over 40,000 signatures called for India to legalize "all consensual sex between consenting adults irrespective of gender and sexuality."

Cover image via Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images.