LGBTQ Indians have freedom of sexual orientation
LGBTQ Indians got the support of the India’s Supreme Court as the latter recently issued a watershed ruling that declared the freedom of sexual orientation as a fundamental right.
The high court judges issued the ruling last week in relation to the general right to privacy of Indian citizens–
which include India’s LGBTQ community.
The Indian government had earlier claimed that the Indian population had no legal right to privacy. But with this high court ruling, LGBTQ Indians can now challenge discriminatory practices against them in courts.
LGBTQ Indians facing legal discrimination
The Indian Supreme Court ruling will eventually contest the controversial Section 377 of India’s Penal Code, which forbids sexual activity “against the order of nature.”
Section 377 dates back to 1860 and was first introduced during the British rule in India. The wording of this section has been interpreted as against gay sex.
The Supreme Court’s judgement read: “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy.”
“Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform,” the ruling declared.
While the said section was first contested in 2009, the Indian Supreme Court had ruled that it was the responsibility of the Parliament rather than the judiciary to change the law.
Currently, Section 377 is facing a legal challenge.
“I welcome this judgment. It is a relief to hear sexuality spoken of in the language of rights and dignity,” said Gautam Bhan, a professor and activist. Bhan was one of the original petitioners in the petition against section 377.
LGBTQ Indians and the right to privacy
The issue of the rights of LGBTQ Indians cropped up as the nine judges of the Indian Supreme Court is deciding on a wider case of the right of privacy of 1.3 billion people living in India, and whether this is part of the country’s constitution.
The Indian government is currently arguing for its Aadhaar biometric identifcation programme, stating that their constitution does not include a right to privacy.
“The right to privacy is not absolute. It is to be determined on a case by case basis,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, the country’s Law and Justice Minister.
“The privacy judgment will be very helpful,” said senior advocate Anand Grover, who is arguing the petition pending at the high court.