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The Supreme Court suggests that homosexuality was never unnatural in India
February, 18th 2012

There is some indication that the courts default settings may be changing, to one that defends sexual freedom. In July 2009, the Delhi high court had read down Section 377, limiting unnatural offences to mean only forcible sexual intercourse and paedophilia. The Supreme Court is now hearing petitions against that decision. It drew an interesting distinction between unnatural and abnormal while gay sex might not fit into certain conventional norms, it does not trespass on any natural order. The court also brought up surrogacy as a phenomenon that complicates the question of what is natural. These are preliminary stages yet, but the courts considered framing of the matter holds out hope that India might finally be done with a century and half of a homosexual-hating law.

By now, most free-thinking nations have struck down sodomy laws as human rights violations. The Supreme Court too, by trying to unpack categories like unnatural and abnormal, is trying to align the law with the world, where so many social and sexual conventions are fraying. The Section 377 set of laws was part of the Christian idea that sex for its own sake takes us away from God, that carnal intercourse against the order of nature (meaning procreation) must be punishable. And so, rape, bestiality and consensual sex between LGBT adults, oral sex were all judged equally. What this meant, in practice, was that queer citizens were harassed and forced to be furtive about their private lives, and even public health issues like HIV had to be skirted around.

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